Women’s Ink; The Society of Women Writers NSW. In memory of a black summer by Colleen Keating

Very honoured to have my poem  Memory of a Black Summer chosen to be published in Women’s Ink Summer 2023., the quarterly Journal of the NSW Society of Women Writers.

The theme was ‘Climate – the heat of the moment’and my summer poem fitted right in.

Thank you to the editor Jo Shevchenko and to the President Maria McDougall for a very affirming year .


In memory of a black summer   

 We had the experience but we missed the meaning.  

    TS Eliot

the cicadas ring earlier 
morning birds call earlier too
and then become silent

the summer ritual of each day –
carrying buckets of water 
to top up the bird baths

is quickly appreciated
there seems an orderly queue 
no boisterous bickering today

as if there is bird protocol
we all need to preserve our energy
for these days are solemn

so much loss   so much to mourn  
so many birds   so many mammals  
insects and living worlds lost

the smoke-laden air 
can hardly be breathed   
the  ashened sun masked

our summer of people fleeing 
livelihoods burn 
metal buckles

people rescued from beaches 
refugees in their own country
we fear 

we dread 
we are in pain

for ourselves and our traumatised earth
even the south pole 
ash-blanketed     melts

our carefree boxing day 
of cricket    tennis   yacht races 
is carefree no more 

I continue my summer ritual
of topping up the bird baths early
the birds fly in 

then sipping at the edge
keep nodding  thank you  thank you
as if they know I’m watching


Colleen Keating