Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Maruts and dust storms

I'm posting this poem from Earth's Breath for all those people in Sydney. I grew up in rural NSW and we had these on a frequent enough basis for us to have a system in place when a dust storm appeared on the horizon. For anyone outside Australia, the colour of Sydney in the pictures that come up if you Google Sydney dust storm are absolutely the right colour for an Australian dust storm. I don't think everything strange should be attributed to climate change. Even if there is no record of dust storms reaching Sydney (and I haven't checked this) I would be very surprised if one could use the word NEVER.

Maruts: storm demons

Afterwards, like new lovers telling stories
we talk of all the storms we’ve ever
witnessed, all the storms
that have snatched at our lives. Stories make
sense of our new state of existence
in the post-cyclone world.

I tell you how dust storms coloured
my childhood, the blue sky died
to dark, then red with dust.
We ran to every window: bolt shut
pull down the blinds, tie in a
figure-of-eight, our mother calling
out each place, Is this checked?
What of that? The doors closed
with dust-jamming snakes.
A cold wind runs over the roof
blasting us, and later we roam the house
drawing stick figures in the dust.

You trump me. Tell me of the
sandstorm in Tunisia, getting caught
out in it, not listening closely enough
to the locals’ warnings. Ant-watching
you miss all the signs until it’s
almost too late. Diving into
the car, you plug every gap, every millimetre
but still the sand comes in. You say
It’s the roar of the wind that is the same.

I remember the snowstorm on
Mt Kosciusko. It is nearly summer and
we leave the resort after lunch
dressed only in shorts and T-shirts, walking
compassless, we follow the snowpoles
losing our place on the map, not really
knowing our course. Unplanned, late
afternoon we stumble on Seaman’s Shack
a stone hut above the treeline. In falling
dark, I go in search of firewood
finding a single fallen pole. We cook
eat half-warmed food and pull the
sleeping bags over our heads. At midnight
the roar comes, the wind blizzarding
the walls. We lie with our bodies
curling the stovelegs, our ears filled with
the resounding echo of storm demons.

With each storm story, another
ricochets through our brains, our
startled synapses in overload. The
flood of ’74, the fires, the snowstorms
in your home country. You say
it’s like being in a washing machine
tumbled, thrown, strewn driftwood.

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