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John Wiley Jul 11
We buried an old friend yesterday,
in the midst of virus restrictions.
It was outside,
just a few of us,
around the grave,
rugged up against the winter wind,
each maintaining distance,
no touching,
no handshakes,
no embraces,
just being together
to acknowledge our shared loss
and celebrate a life well lived.

A son, the only child,
had been allowed to cross
a closed state border.
Others could just observe
by live streaming.
When all was done
we lingered awhile
to renew acquaintances
and reminisce,
but then
were moved along
by grave diggers with
a yellow tractor
and a load of earth.
Over the years I have been involved in many funerals but will especially remember this one.
John Wiley Jun 22
The first time I saw one
I was walking by the creek,
a mere glimpse
in a path-side shrub –
black and white with a flash of yellow –
there for a moment ...
then gone.

Now it seems
I see them everywhere -
in our garden
or on bush-land walks,
flitting between plants
or hanging from a bloom,
sipping nectar
or devouring some minute insect.

But still
the sense of privilege remains,
an avian blessing,
a glimpse of life –
black and white with a flash of yellow –
there for a moment ...
then gone.
The New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) is a small Australian bird - quite common but sometimes hard to spot because of its highly energetic, flitting behaviour.
John Wiley May 29
Old gum
by a dry creek bed,
so long I’ve known you
and yet I haven’t -
can’t.

How can I know
of the ancient people,
custodians of our land,
gathered in your shade,
to sing the timeless songs,
share the timeless dreaming?

How can I know,
with the early explorers,
the challenge – fear –
of an unknown land,
its vastness beyond experience,
challenges beyond belief?

How can I know
the hope
of the early settlers,
lured by good seasons
then destroyed
by drought?

Old gum
by the old dry creek bed,
I have rested in your shade,
wondered at your knowledge
and am indeed blessed.
Gum trees are quite special to many Australians including myself.
This poem is to a particular old gum by a dry creek bed in the Flinders Ranges that I have known and reflected on for many years.
John Wiley May 20
At last,
out of the heat,
dust
and fires,
rain came.

Not a lot;
just enough
to lay the dust,
freshen the air,
lift spirits.

A passing entertainment
rather than
a resolution
of the summer drought
gripping the land.

A few forks of lightning
in the western sky,
a rumbling of thunder
overhead,
then the downpour.

Refreshing rain,
drumming on the roof,
flooding the gutters
and clearing the air.
Welcome visitor.

But then it was gone,
eastward over the hills
to spread its joy
elsewhere,
to others.

Until autumn,
the dry would return,
the dust stir,
the fires rekindle.
Summer.
I live in a Mediterranean climate with generally hot, dry summers.
John Wiley May 14
I took the clifftop walk that day
high above the beach,
walking slowly,
carefully,
leaning against the blast
of a storm
howling in from the sea.

Standing in the lee of a rock,
looking out to sea,
I saw them,
gliding,
wheeling,
harnessing the wind,
seagulls riding a tempest.

Later,
down in a cove,
sheltered from the gale,
I trudged
through sand,
stepping around rocks
of ancient ripples engraved in stone.
This is a revision of a poem written some years ago, just after the experience it describes.
John Wiley Apr 30
“Two days and a night”
they used to say,
from the city down south
to our little bush town
in the desert;
early Thursday morning
to late Friday night –
“Two days and a night”.

A long, slow train –
passengers and freight,
hauled by panting steam
through suburbs,
then farmland,
then desert –
“Two days and a night”.

Tiny bush towns -
some getting stops
for mail and supplies,
maybe for a passenger,
but more often for water
to keep up the steam –
“Two days and a night”.

Every so often
a ramshackle pub
provided short respite -
a quick, cold beer,
then a frenzied gallop
as the train whistled off –
“Two days and a night”.

In our little bush town
on a Friday night
we children would wait
outside for the light
of the approaching train –
****** of our week –
“Two days and a night”.
Back in the late 1940s I lived at Oodnadatta in the Australian bush. Our main link to the outside world was the legendary "Ghan" train that linked the capital city, Adelaide, to Alice Springs in Central Australia.
John Wiley Jan 9
They’ve come early this year,
before the start of summer.

Hot dry days
for hot dry weeks
leave bush and grasslands
tinder dry -
at flashpoint.

A faulty vehicle exhaust?
A stray piece of broken glass?
A smouldering cigarette ****?
An arsonist or pyromaniac?
A lightning strike in a dry thunderstorm?
A forgotten electrical connection?
So many ways to start a bushfire.

A  spark
becomes a flame
becomes a fire
becomes a bushfire
becomes a holocaust.

Homes,
businesses,
infrastructure,
livestock,
pets,
h­uman lives,
whole townships,
our precious bushland,
our wildlife and flora,
endangered species …
all at risk -
all under threat.

And yet,
human spirit prevails.
Communities unite in mutual support.
Firefighters - many as volunteers -
sacrifice home comforts,  families and income
for days on end.
Others provide food, safe havens,
funds and resources.
Under threat we hold together
and so we survive.

Hot dry days
for hot dry weeks
leave bush and grasslands
tinder dry -
at flashpoint.

Summer is still young.
The worst is yet to come.
We must survive.
Much of Australia is currently experiencing early and extreme summer weather with the worst bushfires on record.
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