Venie Environmental Poetry Prize

Bogong – a Lament by Sue Aldred

In December 2021 the ICUN declared the Bogong Moth (Agrotis infusa) a threatened species
(along with 123 other members of our Australian wildlife family)

Millions upon millions they came,
                sucked south from Sunshine State,
                              blown from Back o’Bourke,
                                          crawled out of Corner Country,
                                                       from banks of once-mighty Murray.

Emerging, damp, crumpled from soil chambers.
Brown, nondescript, Bogongs uncurled, flew.

Befurred, plump, big as a palm,
swarming, swooping, across compass points –
– a thousand kilometres.
Hirsute sailors flying by stars, mirroring moon’s rise,
navigating by mysterious magnetism,
drawn, ever drawn, to that mountain…

First arrivals, best spots – consolidate!
Body on body, heads, bellies, legs atop neighbours,
pile upon pile, brown-gold furred tapestry,
metre thick carpet on cave ceilings
of moist, cool, dark granite.

Eat to aestivate. Summer spent storing fat,
building sustenance for you, for others.
Delay, delay, all the hot weather through.
Here you stayed until the signal sounded –
North! Home! Before the snow falls –
cloud on cloud, cycle on cycle,
for seven-thousand-years, to breed the future.

Raven, bat, currawong, bush rat followed you,
drooling, salivating, licking lips.
People awaited you too. Tribe on tribe on mountain top,
             ready to feast on you,
                                       roasting, baking.
                                                    Growing round and sleek
                                                                  on fat-filled-fullness.
Then away, to travel, full of story, business, moth-cake.
Bogong celebration remains, embedded
on ancient Gurnaikunai grindstones.

(Even whitefellas, paltry amnesiacs
remember Canberra bogong carpets.
Your hordes blocked out the moon…
call the pest controller…)

In alpine torpor, pygmy possum waits out winter.
Stirring, she hunts for prey to feed her curled babies.
But you fly no more –
             her young will starve.
                           Gone – wildflower pollinator.
                                         Hungry – alpine birds, lizards, frogs.
                                                       Effects cascade down the eco-chain.

For you are disappeared.
No subterranean munching larval jaws,
wings stilled, flight stunted,
empty caves, silent air.

There is drought, fire.
Periglacial refuges gone.
             Poisoned land,
                          flooded paddies,
                                       wrong crops,
light-polluted night sky. All these destroy
caterpillar food, halt your flight.

Befurred bodies broken.
Some cared, searched, tracked. Too little, too late.
(Those Canberra carpets –
did you beat your wings to make us listen?)
Most, oblivious, barely noticed.

Pinned in glass museum cases, children will see you.
Those hairy bodies sustained thousands,
supported whole systems, structures – Gaia.
Bogong – one more lost link in life’s chain.


You can hear Sue reading her poem here:


1 thought on “Bogong – a Lament by Sue Aldred”

  1. I loved listening to Sue reading her poem. I live on King Island and thank goodness we have just had a normal Bogong season. Took many photos of their flashing red eyes on my kitchen window whilst my well fed family of possums thankfully ignored them. Some say here that the Bogongs are not as large in size as they used to be in the past. We have lived her for 11 years and always cheer when that first deluge brings them out of the forest.

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