The Night They Set Canberra On Fire

My latest poem! This one won the best and only (read: one of two) Can­berra poetry slam, Bad!Slam!No!Biscuit!. Are you in Can­berra? Go there. Third Wed­nes­day of every month at the Phoenix. This was the fun­nest poem to write.


The night they set Can­berra on fire
We didn’t notice because we were
In the Phoenix, read­ing poetry.
The night they set Can­berra on fire
And hungry wolves loped through Garema Place
And the mod­ern street art took to the skies
Like a flock of tarantu­las
Wheel­ing into each other
With wild, tangled aban­don,
We didn’t notice because we were
In the Phoenix, read­ing poetry.

The night the Goon Bag rose on its haunches
Shed­ding the home­less like clumps of fur
And soun­ded a heav­ing bel­low,
The night the iron sheep out­side Sub­way
Sod­om­ised a hun­dred bogans and the iron birds
Out­side Sub­way van­dal­ised the merry go round
And all the dresses of all the shops
Ran like chil­dren through the empty glass hall­ways,
The night Can­berra burnt with scream­ing flames,
We didn’t notice because we were
In the Phoenix, read­ing poetry.

The night that Impact Com­ics and Land­speed Records
Rolled around in the square, pant­ing with breath­less
Brick anti­cip­a­tion, tear­ing off each oth­ers’ shop­fronts
In wild sexual aban­don and the night that
The flames, the ter­rible flames burnt every­one,
Man and woman and child and law­yer,
The night two dozen pub­lic ser­vants star­ted a uto­pian soci­ety
In the Alinga Street over­pass and
Glebe Park grew into a silent forest
And the War Memorial made a secret pact
With Old Par­lia­ment House and witches gathered
On Com­mon­wealth Hill and dark flags fluttered
From every aban­doned flag­pole and a ter­rible fire licked
At the bones of the dead,
We didn’t notice because we were
In the Phoenix, read­ing poetry.

The night eight Action buses
Came to the con­flag­ra­tion sim­ul­tan­eously late
And dis­gorged a stricken mul­ti­tude who
Burst onto the blistered pave­ment without
Tag­ging off their MyWay cards
And were required to pay the full fare before dying of
Sick­en­ing radi­ation pois­on­ing and wasps,
The night that Canberra’s seedy under­belly
Sprouted flowers and hung out with the
Ghosts of every Flori­ade that had been,
The night Tug­ger­an­ong and Bel­connen joined forces
Against the Quean­beyan horde, the night
All of my ex-girlfriends, includ­ing Sam­antha
Who said we never dated but we did, dam­mit, I saw her boobs,
Were con­sumed whole by the rising waters of
Lake Bur­ley Griffin, which smelt like peat bogs and
Lic­quorice, and none were saved,
We did not notice because we were
In the Phoenix, read­ing poetry.

And when the last walls col­lapsed
Into the ash and the quiet des­cen­ded,
And the screams had stopped at long last,
We were not dead because we were
In the Phoenix, read­ing poetry.

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