Jeri Kroll is Emeritus Professor of English and Creative Writing at Flinders University and an Adjunct Professor Creative Arts at Central Queensland University. Vanishing Point (verse novel) was shortlisted for the 2015 Queensland Literary Awards. A George Washington University stage adaptation was a winner in the 47th Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Recent critical books are Creative Writing: Drafting, Revising and Editing (2020), ‘Old and New, Tried and Untried’: Creativity and Research in the 21st Century University (2016) and Research Methods in Creative Writing (2013). She is a Doctor of Creative Arts candidate at University of Wollongong.
Imaging the Future

Could this be my brain,
snug in its casket of bone,
a golden deep-sea coral, inscribed in purple,
suspended in perfect black?
My brain first fed on words,
rocking in a liquid cradle,
as voices sang to me.
Only when my eyes unglued,
my mother’s face took shape,
could images begin to sketch their truths.

Decades on I thought my mind
was written out; I’d spent my stash of words.
This year of solitude’s revised us all.
Plagued by memories,
I’ve ached and sweated scrolling back.
What rivulets of passion or despair
flooded through these days?
And yet the present finally dammed the past –

the paddock’s breath that shimmers in the morning,
the night’s sheer black that still admits the stars,
the whirrs and clicks of lives I cannot see,
the growls and squeals of everything nonhuman,
and all the sighs and rages of the winds
that never hold their peace.
And so this is my hope, perhaps my last –
that age has woven fissures
delicate as these;
that purple dye’s more beautiful
because it has to fade,
and I can flicker as the voltage drops,
the light dims, the heart calms.
Until that final pulse,
let words remain the bridge between the folds,
recording what I am.

Chernobyl - 35 years on

The second pandemic year still harbors luminous terrors. I stumble through weeks pretending to cope, while memories divebomb without warning, nest in my mind and breed. At midnight despair swoops along currents of sleep, only coming to rest in the morning gloom. At least the pathetic fallacy can’t bully the weather. Rains begin as predicted, the sun retreats as expected, yet winter will end, the gardening show guarantees.  

And thirty-five years on, I read that Chernobyl proves there is hope for the planet. In the exclusion zone, flora and fauna baffle the experts, refusing to disappear. Two hundred bird species have returned, disregarding the danger signs. Albino swallows nest in deserted barns, tawny owls feast on voles and tree frogs and swans glide in cooling ponds past the crumbling reactor. Building codes embedded in their genes, beavers reclaim the landscape, while foxes, wolves, elk and bison make new ancestral tracks through a thousand acres. But what about hawks and eagles that sweep across borders? Do they mate with unsullied neighbours? What legacy do they leave in fledgling bodies? Have all these animals bested human survivors?

Is every story then part truth, part metaphor, or Rorschach cards foretelling a toxic future? I’m left to calculate the half-life of my aging brain and, before it’s too late, try to cross the alienation zone, hoping to reach a humane world. But those radioactive images still agitate the dark, and all I can think of are birds of prey coming home to roost.