David Lewis Paget
The Listening Tree
There once was a time I would wander the bush
And camp in the woods every night,
Watching the birds and the wildlife there
Was the thing that would give me delight.
I’d walk it with Jill or I’d go it alone,
It made little difference to me,
But out in the depths of the forest I found
A very unusual tree!
It wasn’t a gum or a stringy bark,
A cedar, an ash or a beech,
None of the common varieties
And neither a plum nor a peach,
The leaves were like arrows of silver grey
Aligned, with each face to the sun,
And every so often they’d chatter, it seemed
Like the rapid rat-tat from a gun.
I’d never seen anything like it before
So I stopped, and I walked it around,
The pods full of seeds were still ripening there,
And fell, spilling seeds on the ground.
Then birds would come, feed in a frenzy and fly
Their bellies swelled out with the seed,
I wondered if nature had chosen this way
To propagate more of these trees?
I gathered some up and I took them on home,
And planted some back on the block,
I marked with a stake and I covered with loam,
Sat back to see how long it took.
I couldn’t believe it, the following day
They had sprouted up more than a yard,
A week, they had towered right over my head
And I felt I should be on my guard!
There’s something not right with a species that grows
From a seed to a tree in a week,
When Jill came around and she saw what I’d found
She just stood there, unable to speak.
The silver leaves chattered each time she approached
With a menace I’d not heard before,
A leaf seemed to fly at her, cutting her cheek,
And she wiped the blood off, and she swore!
‘There’s something rank evil in that silver tree,
Can’t you see how it’s twisting around,
Those leaves are like arrows, and sharp as can be,
You should yank the thing out of the ground.’
The leaves started chattering madly at that,
And something was chattering back,
Another tree, just like the one I had grown,
Had sprouted, along on the track.
I called a Professor Biologist in,
Professor John Ward, M.Sc.
He wandered around it and furrowed his brow,
‘It’s nothing like I’ve ever seen! ’
The leaves started chattering, soon as he spoke,
Then fired off a host of its leaves,
They struck the Professor, bringing him down,
Unable to get off his knees.
We called in the firemen, called in the police,
They burnt that young tree to the ground,
But then in the air was a chattering, chattering,
Louder and louder, that sound!
And suddenly, every direction we looked
There were trees with those silvery leaves,
Surrounding our houses and lining our streets
Like a plague, or some dreadful disease.
We hide in our houses and whisper our needs,
For trees have grown up by each door,
A shower of arrows are loosed when we speak
So we crawl on our knees, on the floor,
They say that the army is coming to town
With bazookas, flamethrowers and such,
But while all these trees are listening, listening,
Better we don’t say too much!
We put on the radio, turn it down low
And we listen to news on the hour,
All that they talk of are alien trees
That came down with a meteorite shower.
They’re radioactive, and that’s why they grow,
So quickly, and glow in the night,
I should have known better, but who could foresee
There were trees that could listen, and fight?
2 April 2013
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- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- First Fig, Edna St. Vincent Millay
- Dreams, Langston Hughes
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
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