The Gathering Host by Neil Creighton

Australia’s jewel is burning.
All along the rugged, mountainous south-west
coast
of the island state of Tasmania,
rain-forests, once a tangle of towering trees and
vine,
stand dry and vulnerable.
The host has ceased its gathering.
Now it attacks with a roar.
It overpowers the King Billy pines.
It plunders alpine garden and rainforest.
It gathers to scale the Walls of Jerusalem.
Its front line stretches for 1600 kilometres.
What stops it turning towards the populated east,
raging through farmland and city,
burning down to the water
before jumping channels to conquer the islands,
the sapphire splints off the mainland gem?
Only the wind which refuses to blow.
But still, it waits in the deep gorges
and blazes through button grass and rainforest.

Northwards, over the vast continent,
the land bakes under 40 C heat.
The Darling River runs dry.
Where only algae blooms in oxygen-deprived
ponds,
a million fish lie belly up and stinking.
Starving ‘roos die of thirst.
Koalas leave the trees in search of moisture.
The land pants and cracks and subsides.
The fear of summer spreads
as heat wave follows heatwave,
blanketing the inland,
surging over the Great Dividing Range,
oppressing the white sand beaches
and the curling blue waves.

Still fools wave lumps of coal in Parliament.
Still powerful politicians live in denial.
Still the hollow men
stuff their headpiece filled with straw
into their dry cellar.
And I ask this.
Is this the way the world ends?
Is this the way the world ends?
Is this the way the world ends?
Not with a bang.
Nor with a whimper.
But with a mighty conflagration?

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