Out Damned Spot

By Chris Collins

Unstained gold mountain tips mock my hands

On the steering wheel. The morning drive to work

Gifts a backdrop of untouched mountain tops

For contaminated fingertips.

I arrive and wash tainted hands again:

Out damned spot.

Sun rising like far off wildfire; faster than fake news

On a world where an invisible threat

Spreads death faster than 80k winds uphill.

A clean destruction that leaves the canopy untouched.

But mark – here’s a spot still.

Sun and hills and forest – a world we fucked

Now too, too sullied flesh; too soiled breath will melt

Our marching children who screamed for change.

We scold phone-absorbed youth; ‘we stayed out till tea’

But when they came out, you sent them back

Now they incubate contagion while you scrub your hands with bleach.

Burn no coal, they begged – then we burned; then drowned;

And choked in smoke and now moist pneumatic mist.

Fire and flood and hail killed flying foxes

Now they avenge and pestilence joins the horses

Under tapered blackened trees with green ribboned growth.

Here’s the smell of blood still.

Amid trees and hills and rivers, our infected children

Smile as they assassinate a generation who would not listen

And leave an unburned, unflooded, unpeopled world

With trees lacing green fingers over corpses

Their roots mining bodies for wealthy nutrient.

Shiva dances; we scrub singing birthday songs for years we will not have

What – will these hands ne’er be clean?

Go to, go to – we have done what we should not.

Chris Collins used to write on a narrowboat on the UK canals between English teaching and Morris dancing. Now she writes in a burning room in Australia between kangaroo spotting and Morris dancing.


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