Almanac Poetry: Cracker Night

Cracker Night
(the sale of fireworks was outlawed in Victoria in 1982)


What a shame
we can no longer
celebrate Guy Fawkes Night:
build a fiery mountain
in our back yard;
set off penny bangers,
skyrockets and jumping jacks;
make a letter box explode;
blind a mate in the eye;
blow off one of our fingers.


Acknowledgement: first published in Nightingale & Sparrow journal (USA), 2019.


Festivities in Windsor Castle during Guy Fawkes Night, 1776 – by Paul Sandby. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)





Kevin Densley is a graduate of both Deakin University and The University of Melbourne. He has taught writing and literature in numerous Victorian universities and TAFES. He is a poet and writer-in-general. His fifth book-length poetry collection, Please Feed the Macaws ... I'm Feeling Too Indolent, was published in late 2023 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.


  1. Always an important occasion on the farm when I was a kid, Kevin. For some reason, sky rockets used to particularly engage me. Then, the next morning, we’d go out into the yard or across the road into the paddock to find any ‘unexploded ordnance’ for a second round the next night. Unfortunately, there usually wasn’t much to find. Now not far off 70, I am still moved by the beauty of fireworks – perhaps a reminder of a lost innocent youth.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for your comments, Ian. I have clear memories of touring my neighbourhood as a kid and looking at the bonfires. It was such a different time.

  3. John Butler says

    Kevin, I was a piker when it came to cracker night. Never looked like a good idea to me. I like my fingers.


  4. Kevin Densley says

    Fair enough, John! Looking back, it was such an unusual phenomenon. I recall liking the effects of the fireworks more than setting them off myself.

  5. Jarrod_L says

    I love this one Kevin, as a poem it paints a picture of time and place and as allegory it’s so clever that it can be read as a whimsical call to nostalgia, a winking dig that the good old days weren’t always as rosy as painted and a call to step back and look at a funny old tradition stemming from collision of religion and politics thousands of kilometres away and 400 years ago as proxy for so many of the contentious issues we grapple with today.

    And fireworks are just so full of excitement to boot!

  6. Kevin Densley says

    Wonderful, Jarrod – the manner in which you’ve “unpacked” a range of points relevant to this poem! Many thanks!

  7. Our cracker nights were EPIC! So much fun.

    In hindsight the fun police were initially unleashed on us all in the 1980s, so when cracker night was banned we should have seen the rest of the nonsense coming.

    Yes some lost fingers, some lost eyes, some lost their left knacker, but gee we had fun!

  8. Kevin Densley says

    Ah, Dips! I appreciate the comments.

  9. Colin Ritchie says

    Great stuff Kevin. Cracker night was always a big night, fortunately when I was a kid we celebrated twice, Empire Day and Guy Fawkes. The paddock over the road the guy was built, neighbours tossing on anything that would burn. Huge fire, Catherine wheels, skyrockets, rows of Tom Thumbs, and of course the penny bunger. It’s amazing more people were not injured with all those fireworks going off in all directions amongst dozens and dozens of people. But we had fun, it was a ball. Later after the fire had died down the marshmallows and potatoes would come out; many a burnt tongue!

  10. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks Colin – I remember almost all the things you mention in your comments. (Empire Day was a bit before my era.) And yes, there was a great deal of fun and surprisingly few injuries. I’d forgotten about the food element, but you’ve reminded me how we used to cook potatoes wrapped in aluminium foil – very enjoyable. Also, my mother was telling me today how, when she was young, people in her suburb used to prepare for enormous neighbourhood bonfires weeks in advance by throwing all flammable junk on communal stacks – the bonfire was therefore a way of getting rid of unwanted rubbish, too.

  11. Hayden Kelly says

    Great stuff Kevin
    it still bemuses me as to how they ever sold threepenny bungers to any kid who had the money . They were half a stick of gelignite .
    Favourite game for Wycheproof boys was to pool our money buy as many penny and threepenny bungers as our money allowed . Go up to Mount Wycheproof [smallest mountain in the world ] ,divide the crackers form 2 sides and hurl crackers at each other from behind rocks . We learnt to light quickly ,throw quickly and be very nimble on our feet when beset by enemy fire . Nobody lost a finger or an eye fortuitously . It all went to mush when we effectively burnt all the undergrowth on the Mount one day and several CFA crews had to attend to contain the grassfire .
    Good times

  12. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Hayden. Wow! Your comments vividly illustrate one of the main issues touched upon in my poem about Cracker Night – the mixture of excitement and danger involved.

  13. Kevin Densley says

    Ah! Would’ve been Cracker Night tonight, in former times …

  14. It was another millennium, KD!

  15. Kevin Densley says

    Certainly feels like it, Ian!

    What a very different time!

  16. Cracker night – what fun we had in those times. I remember a time during a woodwork class when of the lads, John put his hand up and asked to be excused. His real reason to leave the room was to have a smoke outside.
    The teacher became suspicious when John was taking a long time about “his business”. Outside John heard him coming. Not wanting to be caught smoking (his cigarette still had a bit to go). the young rascal popped it into his pocket.However, he pocket was full of fire crackers (mainly squibs) and his fag wasn’t properly extinguished. Result, firecrackers exploding in his pocket burning his leg and ruining his trousers’ pocket. Thankfully our teacher knew first aid and helped John. Whether John gave up smoking, I never found out..

  17. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for that one, Fisho.

    Maybe John gave up crackers instead!

  18. Kevin, thankfully the crackers didn’t burn his nackers. I do remember his surname but I think it should remain Anonymous

  19. Daryl Schramm says

    How much would a penny bunger cost now?

  20. Kevin Densley says

    Fair enough, Fisho!

    And Daryl – I reckon at least a few dollars – if they were available, of course. Such is inflation!

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