campfire embers —
stars shine out
from the blackened billy
Referred to in Australia’s best known ballad, Waltzing Matilda, the campfire billy has a special place in Australian folklore. Once an essential item carried by the outback explorer and bushman it is today more likely to be accompanied by an esky, a gas cooker and zip-up tent. The billy is the centrepiece to a tea ceremony of its own kind; those taking part seated on the ground, or perhaps in fold-out chairs, their faces lit by the glow of fire, story and song. The billy referred to in this haiku is blackened by previous fires and so has a history we are invited to surmise. One gets a sense here of later hours: the fire has become embers which i imagine glowing warmly in the dark, the water is off the boil (for it reflects the sky), conversation lulled and replaced by reverie – for it is only then that one is likely to notice such a detail as the night sky reflected in the billy. The contrast of light and dark in this haiku is especially effective – the glow of embers in the night and the stars themselves – i see them tremor – shining out from the blackened billy.
First Published: Windfall: Australian Haiku Issue 1, 2013
Selection & comments by Simon Hanson