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We will never be free of all our debts

Sandra Renew |  19 February 2017


Selected poems




He disturbs the dank dark

in the cupboard under the kitchen sink,

tapping with his wrench on the echoing metal u-bend —


but he came without a plumbline

cleared the way for a pipeline

trumpeted it's all mine


It was in the season of dry heat, with gusting wind

straining the trees, sucking vestigial damp

even from wilting garden undergrowth,


a season when spiders come down from the washing line

sanctuary where they had folded their spindly legs

neatly into damply hanging clothes —


and the whispering spiders

longing for a skerrick of mould and moisture

sidle from the garden to the house

come up through the cracks, in through the warp of windows

emerge from behind our familiar furniture

stretch their reach into the future

crowd us, claim us as fellow creatures —


he came without a plumbline

cleared the way for a pipeline

trumpeted it's all mine



We will never be free of all our debts

observing the decades long incident is unbearable —

although they have fallen beautifully

time is not on their side, their ideals are consigned to fire

          but do we care so little

that when the fates convene and humans fail

sumo-sized jelly fish and yellow crazy ants and ubiquitous spiders

will be all that's left

do we care so little

and think we are free of all our debts,

did we think we were never so needy

as to sell our dreams

do we think we are not crazy — we are not the crazy ants

or a herd of goats going down to the water

both eager and reluctant, queuing on the path

dancing with watchful care for predators

only to find the water gone —

we'll never now be free of all our debts

          because we care so little



The taps run

By 2030 there will be a forty percent greater demand for water than there are

supplies available. Today we drink, the taps run. In another moment

everything is dry and shadowed. Even though we can dig through rock to the

centre of the earth, even though we can take the salt and bitterness from the

sea water, everything is dry and shadowed.




Great Victoria

Rain God's joke on us


Sandra RenewSandra Renew's poetry is informed by her many years working in war zones, in Indigenous communities and on the fringes of heterosexuality. Her poetry comments on contemporary issues and questions: war, environment, gender, climate and the planet's health, migration, dissent, protest, human rights, freedoms. Sandra has published in social justice anthologies and international and national journals.

The poem 'We will never be free of all our debts' contains three lines of found poetry (p 133, p 168, p 190) from Modern Poetry of Pakistan (ed. Iftikhar Arif trans. Waqas Khwaja Dalkey, Archive Press 2010) and one from The Essential Rumi (p 144) (trans. Coleman Barks with John Moyne Harper San Francisco, 1995).


Sandra Renew


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Submitted comments

Very thoughtful - we will never be free of our accumulated debts, snowballing over the centuries. We have enjoyed the assets not realising the costs. Which generation will bear the full cost?

Sue Waddell 20 February 2017

Great poems for these times- important for poets to speak out Well done Sandra and thank you

moya pacey 24 February 2017

Poetry for our times. Hear her read at Manning Clark House, Canberra, on 23 March!

Kerrie Nelson 24 February 2017

Thank you Sandra for putting our dilemma so clearly and now please can we have more from poets about how to change direction and to cherish what's left of our planet?

Jill sutton 03 March 2017

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