When A Tree Falls
© David Campbell

Winner, 2014 Toolangi C J Dennis Open Poetry Competition, first published in the competition anthology.

When a tree falls in the forest and an ecosystem dies,
there’s a tiny world forsaken in the graveyard where it lies,
for the birds have lost the shelter that for years they have enjoyed,
and the rare Leadbeater’s possum sees its habitat destroyed.

For a tree is home and haven to a teeming multitude,
a variety of life forms that depend on it for food
and a chance to give their species the most-favoured breeding place,
with protection from the weather in our climate’s harsh embrace.

As the ’dozers and the chainsaws kill the heartbeat of our land
with a careless, callous blindness that is hard to understand,
we are left to mourn the passing of the legacy of time
in a moment of destruction that should constitute a crime.

All the government’s excuses are just politicians’ noise,
a mere bureaucratic smokescreen that the leadership employs
as a means of hiding pledges they have made to buy some votes,
with an ignorance unequalled of the danger that denotes.

For the forest is our future, it’s the breath of each new dawn,
and a refuge for the creatures that we soon will have to mourn
as they vanish from the valleys that have nurtured them since birth,
to fall victim to the carnage as we desecrate the earth.

In the hills around Toolangi, where the Mountain Ash trees grow,
mighty monuments of grandeur from the days of long ago,
there is no halt to the logging that creates an ugly scar
which disfigures verdant beauty across vistas near and far.

You’d have thought consideration for the fragile countryside
might have been a telling factor when so much of nature died
as the bushfires’ devastation changed the forest’s green to black,
but the government did nothing and unwisely turned its back.

So the Eucalyptus regnans is brought crashing to the ground;
once the ruler of its kingdom, it is ruthlessly uncrowned,
to lie shattered, crushed and broken in some former leafy glade,
and then harvested as woodchips so that paper can be made.

In the lofty mountain ranges, when the loggers’ days are done,
it is death that haunts the stillness, for their battle has been won;
the machines of man have conquered, the environment has lost,
and in each year’s long, slow turning, we will have to pay the cost.

For the bounty we should cherish will soon disappear from view
in an arid, barren landscape that replanting can’t renew,
and the children of our children will despair when we recall
that we stood around in silence as we watched the last tree fall.


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