Sumac

By Rowan McKeon

It’s 1642 and if you climb that tall tree
You might catch a glimpse of a sail out at sea.
It’s Abel Tasman and he’s just sighted land
And named this island on which you stand.
But direct your attention back to the ground
And you’ll note the small shoots that grow all around,
As yet unnamed, as yet unseen,
But by the black tribe, in this forest serene.

O’er a century’s passed and Cook has been by,
Flinders and Bass, out of Sydney Cove, why?
To settle this land, to wield gun and whip,
To ravage with axe, the forest to strip.
But direct your attention back to the ground
And you’ll note the tall saplings that grow all around,
Still yet un-named, still yet unseen,
But by the black tribe, in this forest serene.

Another century, and the black ones are gone.
Hunted to death or forced to move on.
The Tarkiner tribe’s been driven to extinction
Along with the tiger, by the white man’s destruction.
But direct your attention back to the ground
And you’ll note the tall trees that grow all around,
Still yet unnamed, still yet unseen,
But by the birds and the devils, in this forest serene.

A world war’s been fought and there’s been lots of progress,
In the distance the sound of machines splits the silence.
But distance has protected this forest’s fate,
And the silence deepens while the forest waits.
But direct your attention back to the ground
And you’ll marvel at the trees that stand all around,
Now named obliqua, brown-top eucalyptus,
But still hardly seen by any human witness.

Another world war, now there are planes overhead,
And the sound of the saw fills the forest with dread.
The land to the south’s been dammed, then protected,
But the Sumac’s been mapped for logging projected.
But direct your attention back to the ground
And you’ll be in awe of the giants that stand all around.
Progress has left them a last remnant of the glory
Of a forest so ancient it has its own story.

These trees under threat are now in a war
‘Tween money and greed and those who adore
This planet, this Earth, this island, this home,
Wanting nothing, no more, than what’s here ‘fore it’s gone.
Now direct your attention back to the ground,
You’ll see protesters and policemen gathered around,
Fighting a battle, a war, to the last,
So our children can touch these giants of the past.

Be it on your heads now, you people in power,
Know that this is the time, that this is the hour.
You can choose Life, give your children a vision,
Show leadership now, it is your decision.
Direct your attention back to the ground,
The call of these giants has been heard all around,
Arrests have been made, protesters in prison,
But nothing will stop us until you all listen.

This song is not finished, the battle still rages,
Only Heritage listing and National Park status
Will settle our fears and still our loud voices
While we wait for our leaders to make the right choices.
So direct your attention back to the ground
Where shoots grow to trees grow to giants all around,
Where life, given time, creates a glorious place,
Where we can but marvel, in awe, at the grandeur we face.


Poet’s Corner is a quaint and quirky section of The Tasmanian Times. It has been designed to offer a haven to those who relish and immerse themselves in the sheer joy and pleasure emanating from English verse. Our idea is to share poems published in Tasmania during the early years of British arrival.

We would also like you to share your poetry with us. Submissions can be sent to arts@tasmaniantimes.com. Please see www.tasmaniantimes.com/contact for general submission guidelines.