It was a long summer. We saw unsettling things in the news, and we felt them at home – the unrelenting temperatures, steeped nights, no rain. That now-infamous global heat map showing Australia like a blistering boil of weeping red. The bloated fish after algal blooms.
No-one says anything when we leave our small baby blue townhouse from the back door. We do this because the front door has been broken since the owner said he’d fix it when I was sixteen, but now I’m pushing twenty-one and still no sign from the landlord. I wonder how a middle-aged white man who sells ice cream and manages an extermination business from the same garage could be so busy for years that he is incapable of fixing his own door.
This is Cassilis, a place somewhere in Victoria, I can hear my mother saying through the grey-green sheet. Several nights like this, with the sheet between us, and I am pleased to say only the faintest sounds issue from the other side. Mostly I hear her tongue moving in her mouth and then, in the mornings, the soft swish as she fastens the five buttons along the trim of her coat.
The three winning poems, as with those on our shortlist, are vastly different in their aesthetics, but what unites them is a shared ethics of seeing the world and its sociopolitical constructs anew, and a searching for patterns that might make sense of what’s impossible to resolve – our shared, though disparate, existence in the Anthropocene.
Blackfellas is over the edge
a sheer drop beside a path
perched against the limestone cliff