Like the slender masts of deserted ships, shrugged of their meagre rigging,
The gum trees shoulder the alpine wind, point accusingly at the bruising skies,
At the very air that gave passage to their baptism,
And lean their burnt bodies, like black exclamations against a floor of white.
The forest should be in a winter sleep, but the scourge of flame has left the trees bereft,
And where they would be slumbering they stand hollow, in haunting desecration.
Draped with the tattered scarves of peeling bark, their shed skin makes a loose curtain
That rattles a death knell in the birdless air, in the feverish chill of wind
That creeps between their lean-to frames and waves the sheaves of bark
Above a delicate seam of fallen snow, like a thrown quilt.
A snap of dry wood resonates like a cracked knuckle in the hushed landscape,
Wrung by the hands of a penitent wind that reaches a crescendo,
Rolls-in then exhales like a tide through naked branches, and loses its momentum.
These tendrils of peeled bark trail in long ribbons from the frail husks of lissom trees;
They flutter and caress like fingers reaching between their spectral figures,
In eerie supplication, as if beseeching for a last embrace.
Leeched of life, in ghostly stance, they seem to huddle in the rigorous cold,
Their forlorn remains petrified by the char and lick of flames,
Reduced to residue and amputated limbs, in attitudes of horror and indignation.
In the hush of the alpine doldrums, these ships’ masts make no journey,
Their dun, unclad limbs stiff and parched in this barren arboreal grave.
Lonely stanchions mark the ruins of the forest now, cutting into a rim of sky,
Their pitch skeletons gaunt and harried, stark against the winter chill.
The forest is dead; yet, at the ravaged feet of trees there springs a stalwart foliage
On tender shoots of green, their leaves twining hopefully on slender wrists of Eucalypt,
In reverence at the grave of their guardians, peering from snowy burrows
At the lofty heights to which their being makes them aspire.
From the ashes, the saplings begin their restitution, to flourish and endure as the seasons pass,
To reach for the high canopy as the decades unfold, and to be crowned again.
Their journey has barely begun, but in veneration for their fallen kings,
From the shivering ground their clamour rises: the forest is dead, long live the forest.