© Brenda Joy

Winner, 2017 Henry Lawson Memorial and Literary Society – Bush Poetry Award, Brighton, Melbourne, Victoria.

Diverse ash forests span the floors of valleys carved by time
    entwining steep dramatic slopes with aged, old-growth remains.
There, rugged sand-stone cliffs reach out to views above sublime,
enchanting canopies of green, with Nature in her prime –
    but, higher still, sparse, open woods veneer uplifted plains.

A wild and unforgiving place that offers small reprieve
    – its harsh and pristine beauty’s dominated by extremes –
where swirling winds and sleet and snow and storms all inter-weave
and creatures flee its hostile wrath – yet, I can never leave.
    Here I’ll remain, for I can only move within my dreams.

The animals that seek my shade on short-lived summer days
    retreat to milder habitats in forests far below.
The native mammal life and birds stay only for a phase;
the potoroo, the wallabies must go their seasoned ways.
    I’m left alone beneath the solid blanketing of snow.

No longer do the sounds of brumbies’ hoof-beats fill the air
    once Autumn’s chill portends that blizzards, squalls and storms are near.
And humans seek their safety zones for they are well aware
of perils out of Man’s control.  Ferocious wind-gusts tear
    at leaves that bravely battle midst the frozen atmosphere.

Cocooned within my memories, I hibernate in thought.
    Again I must endure the winter – desolate, forlorn.
My gnarled and twisted form reveals the damage time has wrought;
my constant struggle, year on year, with skills that need has taught,
    through many thousand seasons past that tortured limbs have borne.

I heard the echoed sound of ‘didge’ from native Dreamtime clan.
    I saw the hunter-gatherers with simple tribal ways.
I knew the pioneers arrived – the European Man –
when grazing, mining, milling too, on lower slopes began.
    I’ve heard of schemes and works of human-kind of modern days.

Environmental impact from two million tramping feet,
    throughout the fleeting season when the eager tourists come,
the rage of forest fires’ searing flames and scorching heat,
are further pressures remnant flora kin of mine must meet,
    and ghostly skeletons give proof — it proved too much for some.

Yet, through the ages I’ve endured the ravages of fate,
    evolving features, character.  My species will survive!
My roots reach deep within the earth; with stoic strength I wait.
My swollen trunk stands firm and stout.  My dreams anticipate
    the re-awakening of life that seasons can contrive.

Again I’ll feel the gentle touch of surfaced newts and frogs;
    I’ll see the rainbow covering of flowers, herbal plants.
Invertebrates will shelter, safe within my fallen logs.
I’ll shade my native wild-life friends, or rabbits, mice or dogs,
    while birds will chorus melodies in early morning chants.

In Snow Gum Woodlands, wispy phantoms rise to mists of dawn.
    The sun is breaking through, around, the snows are melting fast.
An interval of promise fills the fragile warmth of morn.
With signs of summer’s soft return, my spirit soars, reborn.
    I sprout new growth in joy — my brief reprieve will come at last.

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