Poetry | The forests died back last year …

… geological time

collapses gently


as if we could follow the charts

of rising and

incomprehensibly vast

temperature, and know

the rivers melted long ago.


At some point in the past

you have to meet the future.


Our capacity to absorb

expanding timelines resolved


into the written record of all geology

and substrate fossilised


like the falling leaf you watched


and turning, angling for purchase

on the wet oval ground

of Balfe Park.



Wurundjeri Country

Brunswick East

Naarm, VIC

continent christened Australia



Anticipating ones and zeros

(the origin of binaries – merci, Microsoft)

two instruments

in unison

played a solemn tune:


the low rumbling rhythm

of firetrucks in March


and the high note of the Pliocene


marbled and mottled and yearning, their music

discernible from space

(so they say).


But oh say

can you see

my house from up there?


Turtle Island just an island

of real-time satellite imaging.


Metallic dishes tracking smoke

across the Sino-Russian border

where two fire regimes meet

and make up.


                        The peat fog

of Indonesia convalescing

resumes toward Malaysia

via Singaporean detour


where eight million lightning strikes

occur daily. Ecological aberration

like recurring product placement –


You are now sailing Spaceship Earth.


Some of us are preserved

in the geological record,

the heat of lightning

collapsing grains of sand

into skeletal tubes.








Still – some planets burn longer


soothed by timelines

into which antelope

and koala were led.


Warp-speed reproductions

playing hide-and-seek,


learning not to yield

to atavism,


the stubborn temptation

toward death’s slow feed

because who would win?


Not us – this planet has more practice

insert line break

(hundreds of millions of years, give or take).


Plants and animals harnessing

the mechanics of flames,

a reproductive potential

decipherable in the landscape.


So we have learned to live with it:


the Michelin-starred restaurant

its twenty different heats

for haute cuisine.


Flicker of flame – ignition of light


coolly prompting fire –

fresh arrivals –

and the yielding

of readymade recipes

for fine soufflé.


Overland’s Friday Features project is supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.

Declan Fry

Declan Fry is a writer, poet, and essayist. Born on Wongatha country in Kalgoorlie, Declan Fry has written for The Guardian, Saturday Paper, Overland, Australian Book Review, Liminal, Sydney Review of Books, Cordite, Kill Your Darlings, Westerly and elsewhere. His Meanjin essay “Justice for Elijah or a Spiritual Dialogue with Ziggy Ramo, Dancing” received the 2021 Peter Blazey Fellowship. He has been shortlisted for the Judith Wright Poetry Prize and lives on unceded Wurundjeri country with his partner and their cat, Turnip. @_declanfry

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