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Beds Are Burning
Aleks Dawson (MFA GD 2020)


How can we dance
when our Earth is turning?
How do we sleep
while our beds are burning?
The time has come
to say fair's fair.
To pay the rent—
to pay our share.
Midnight Oil, “Beds Are Burning,” 1987.

I spent almost every summer at this beach as a kid.

Bushfires at Malua Bay, NSW South Coast, Australia. January 2020.
Photo: Alex Coppel / The Herald Sun. Used with permission.


This photo was taken shortly after Australia marked its hottest day on record, and at the peak of its worst fire season in history. In total, 46 million acres burned: the equivalent of Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and Maryland combined. In many cases, fires burned right up to the beach, forcing the Australian Navy to evacuate thousands of people stranded on the sand. All told, dozens lost their lives, almost ten thousand buildings were destroyed, and researchers estimate over a billion animals were killed—many of them endangered species.


Simon Adamczyk rescues a burned koala on Kangaroo Island, southwest of
Adelaide. March 2020. Image: David Mariuz / AAP.


From my desk in Providence, I could do little else but look on in despair as my country burned. It was during this time that I began writing my thesis, and it is now in the midst of COVID-19 that I finish it. In both crises it's been difficult to make—much less justify my making—while the world appears to teeter. Countless days I’ve sat to write this, only to lose myself in the horrors of the day, or the injustices of the present. Many times I’ve lost my bearings, and more than once I’ve lost my temper. How do we continue with the pantomime of the everyday while everything around us is falling apart?

All I know is we cannot go on without acknowledging the central and devastating role we are playing both in our own health and that of the planet.


  1. Call for Submissions
  2. 3.29.20 Irina V. Wang
  3. Let Yourself Be Lifted Jackie Scott
  4. Art Is Everything Jen Liese
  5. Two Poems Ella Rosenblatt
  6. Living Room Dance Party Ariel Wills
  7. On Walking When Walking Is Advised Against Keavy Handley-Byrne
  8. Untitled Cita Devlin
  9. Ads in Corona Hannah Oatman
  10. COVID-19 and Communitas Elaine Lopez
  11. A Time for Pie Elizabeth Burmann
  12. How to Stay Motivated When You’re Stuck at Home Clarisse Angkasa
  13. Coerced Harmony (A Tour) Hammad Abid
  14. Zooming In and Out Tongji Philip Qian
  15. [Form] Ciara Carlyle
  16. Hi.txt Dan Luo
  17. A poem about boredom, a composite Maixx Culver-Hagins
  18. Eyewitness News Tristram Lansdowne
  19. Distance Maps Marcus Peabody
  20. Therapeutic Suggestion Maria Aliberti Lubertazzi
  21. Keep Your Heart Six Feet Away From Mine (and other moments) Arielle Eisen
  22. Twenty Instructions for COVID-19 Charlott Isobel Dazan
  23. Cuerno 1 y 2 Yan Diego Estrella Wilson
  24. A Monolith of Grief Regarding the Absence of Touches, or Letter to a Future Lover García Sinclair
  25. Coronavirus by the Thousands Drew Dodge
  26. Two Poems Kathryn Li
  27. Beds Are Burning Aleks Dawson
  28. Still Lifes Yidan Wang
  29. Fragments of Seva Jagdeep Raina
  30. Packing Up and Staying Woojin Kim
  31. Chronic Pain and Fermentation Ralph Davis
  32. Quarantine Letters Hannah Moore
  33. Sounds of Silence: An Isolation Soundscape Dara Benno
  34. 14 Day Detox for Designers Erica Silver

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