'Post Apocalypse' by Steve Brock | States of Poetry SA - Series Two

Wednesday 28 November 2016, Adelaide

the day of the storm
I had a poetry reading
with Nathan Curnow
overland from Ballarat
to launch his collection
The Apocalypse Awards
an hour into the unprecedented
statewide blackout
I took his call

you bastard
you brought the apocalypse with you
the reading cancelled
I waited around in the darkness
still in the office
with a swag of poetry books
and no way to get home
on the electric train
the city outside in gridlock

the rain stopped
I ventured into the half light
people wandered the streets
with fear on their faces
and nervous laughter
cars bumper to bumper

I decided I’d walk to my father’s
he lives about an hour’s walk north of the city
I passed a huddle of Ministers
scheming down the steps of Parliament House
toward the intersection
of King William Street and North Terrace
where bystanders stood transfixed
watching a fire truck
stuck in the middle of the intersection
sirens wailing
a man in high viz gear
consulted with the driver
and eventually the truck
negotiated a way through

the politicians stood there
with blank faces
some partially shielded by their advisers’ umbrellas
guys I’d written dozens of speeches for
powerless now
like the rest of us

I walked towards North Adelaide
most of the shops were closed
I realised I had no cash
the Oxford had a hand written sign
on the door of the front bar
in blue pen
open ‘til 6 pm
inside a few punters
nursed beers in candle light

I walked on past the banked up traffic
feeling the weight of poetry books
on my back
their ink would outlast
the electronic readers
though even libraries burn

I felt hungry
and wondered if my father
had food in his house
he’d have long-life milk
tinned food and cash
I was a teenager again
lobbing at his door
broke and hungry
tired from the walk
how much longer
will I have this refuge?

six months ago
I held his hand
while he lay sedated
for four days
following a triple bypass
when they finally roused him
he asked me if he was married
and I had to break the news
not once but twice
and twice divorced
our roles reversed
as he pieced together his life
and I answered the big questions
like how we came to be here

as the days passed the fog cleared
and here I was now at his door
the dog barking

that’ll teach the stupid bastards
to close Port Augusta Power Station
we’d driven by it the year before
observed the stream of smoke
rising from the stack
and he’d posed the question then
how that thin trail of emissions
in so much space
could impact on the atmosphere

and now I see his carbon-based world view
vindicated as the batteries on my phone
run down and before long
the device is useless
while on my wrist
the LED lights of my smart watch
flash wastefully in the candle light
as my father discourses
on candle power
and how they used to have
six candles at each end of the table

he tells me
the smell of burning wax
brings back memories of the block
on Maize Island in the Riverland
while for me the blue kerosene lantern
brings back memories of my own childhood
camping on the block
amidst the ruins
of his ancestral home

and I guess all the old timers
will be thinking of the ‘56 flood
I remember him telling me
as a child
it would happen again
but I couldn’t imagine the Torrens River
ever bursting its banks
and now the dams and reservoirs
are full and the Torrens gushes past the weir

I’m in the right place to survive the apocalypse
my father’s world of hand tools
his brace and bit with assorted augers
rip saws and other tools
he’s never owned a power tool
we haven’t had a blackout this good
in a long time
he exclaims happily
and for once isn’t alone with the TV

we suck on cask wine
I pull out my new chapbook
and finally get to show him the poems
he takes his time reading the book
and I wonder why I haven’t found time
to share some of the poems
over two years old now
we hold our own slow reading
in the candle light
my swag of books not wasted

and after a few hours
I borrow his VS Commodore
to drive home
through the windswept darkness
negotiating intersections
without fear of breathos

when I hit the southern suburbs
order is restored
the lights are back on
as the grid is built up
suburb by suburb

I’m reunited with my family
impressed by their resourcefulness

and by morning
I’m awake to both sides of politics
working the airwaves
renewables vs energy security
Turnbull stoking the coalfires
Weatherill weathering the storm.

Steve Brock

Steve Brock

Steve Brock published his first collection of poetry The Night is a Dying Dog (Wakefield Press) in 2007, and received a grant from Arts South Australia for the completion of Double Glaze, published by Five Islands Press in 2013. He is the co-translator with Sergio Holas and Juan Garrido-Salgado of Poetry of the Earth: Mapuche trilingual anthology (Interactive Press, 2014). Steve completed a PhD in Australian literature at Flinders University in 2003. His work has featured in the Best Australian Poems (Black Inc.) and has been published in journals in Australia and overseas. His most recent collection is the chapbook Jardin du Luxembourg (Garron Publishing, 2016).

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