© Catherine Lee

Winner 2010 Golden Wattle Award, Gippsland Victoria.

The tussock’s gusting down the hill; the red sand mocks our crying,
for soil is cracking, dehydrated livestock sadly dying.
The wells are dry, the land is desiccated, nothing’s blooming—
we wake to heartbreak every day; no sign of rain is looming.
The dust whips over arid fields; we fight a losing battle
of pulling thirsting sheep from mud holes, shooting starving cattle.
The birds are falling from the trees, no strength in them for soaring,
whilst ev’ry eye turns heavenward, for sweet respite imploring.
We have to wait it out—there isn’t any other option—
we chose this life, this place, in our great country of adoption.
Yet though the drought is merciless and all supplies depleted,
we’ll come through this just like before, brought low but not defeated…

Vast forests savaged by the flames, with heat that’s all consuming;
all living things their imminent demise are now assuming.
The crackling gums are buffeted by untamed winds of fury,
as Mother Nature rages—stands unyielding judge and jury.
Black ash is flying through the air and roos take flight in terror;
dense smoke conceals escape routes and too late they see their error.
The stench of burning bush and carcass is abomination—
the die is cast, we have to beat this dreadful conflagration.
From conquered furnace, houses razed, defiant smould’ring embers,
fresh hope will spring with life anew, whilst everyone remembers.
Though bush fires bring such tragedies no victory can sweeten,
this toughened harsh rough country’s sometimes licked, but never beaten…

The coastline’s whipped with high speed winds, the palm trees wildly thrashing—
huge waves spew forth their anger on primeval rocks they’re smashing.
There’s not much hope for any boat still coupled to its mooring;
as sea churns fiercely, ruthless, heavy stinging rains are pouring.
Though preparations have been made we still remain astounded
at power of the elements, and unleashed hell unbounded.
From shelter we’re inert with shock at force of winds prevailing—
uprooting objects in its path, producing eerie wailing.
Although we’re safe inside with sturdy hatches firmly battened,
we cannot help but fear our homes will be completely flattened.
But we will salvage all we can when wrathful storm’s abated,
and start again—we’re often crushed, but never subjugated…

The plains are swamped; swift rivers run throughout the drowning city,
and in the country bloated livestock floats—the sight’s not pretty!
The people flee as homes are wrenched and carried in the torrent;
they try to save their pets and come to terms with sights abhorrent.
Survivors cling to battered trees to wait for their salvation,
whilst on the news we’re watched by every person in the nation.
The animals are moved to higher ground in scenes chaotic,
afraid, confused and terrified at nature’s rage aquatic.
Belongings float away; some lose their ev’ry prized possession—
must start from scratch—a necessary, slow and sad progression.
But weapons that the elements seem always to be wielding
may see our spirits dampened, tried, oft’ sunk, but never yielding…

Adversity may belt this massive continent of splendour—
this timeless land of ancient race, and all who would defend her;
yet through the droughts and tempests, fires, each conflict and confusion,
her people rise to challenges with guts in great profusion.
And be it man or be it nature who aspires in taming
this rugged, wild enormous place, her pride she’ll be reclaiming.
For country-wide, although she’s knocked she’ll rise and come up fighting—
descendants of her pioneers still sense their zeal igniting.
Though life is sometimes rugged, cruel, and she may seem reflective—
her passion often tested—she will not be found defective.
Enduring, free and bountiful with loyalty deep seated,
the Aussie spirit triumphs, and will never be defeated.

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