B. R. Dionysius
It was shaving a giant’s hairy body to reduce friction
& speed things up. Each fracture of a Brigalow trunk,
the taut string of a Jarowair songline snapping; ancient
wires curled into a foetal position as the D9s chewed
through acacias like witchetty grubs weakening a tree’s
hardwood core. Local councils paid up bounties to clear
‘scrub’ into the 80s. They strung a necklace of iron pearls
between two dozers; manacled violence, like nineteenth
century convicts kept under guard. The machines clawed
through six million acres, rubbing against bark, leaving
a scent trail of oil & diesel, as though they were some
type of ancient megafauna revisited; extinct, buttery-
furred thylacoleo, carnivorous in their vast appetite.
Then their kitchen knife shiny blades scratched out
the jagged stumps that leaked blood-amber & later
hardened into ruby stalactites & froze to the broken
lip of the forest’s open mouth. The rich, alluvial soil
ruptured like a freshly dug mass grave, as the tree-
pushers tossed black wattle bodies into loose piles
& burnt them. Genocide’s sleight of hand perfected
on nature first. Trees as numbers. Dozer drivers
saw straight through their bee-yellow badges, their
earmuffs silenced the forest’s death rattle, made
the weary farmers bomber-pilot resilient to raining
down destruction. The ovens were crude fire pits
that melted down acacia sap like looted gold, so that
it pooled tawny in this open furnace’s charcoal bed.
These chains of being breaking coffee-stained teeth
of white ant hills that housed avian clay diamonds.
The Paradise Parrot, a smashed green, red, & blue
panel in the Darling Downs stained glass window.
The termite mounds rose like a child’s best castle
or miniature gothic cathedrals built of sand & grass,
masticated & stored in the climate-controlled fridge
interior. These insects stowing carbon before there
was a price put on the planet’s bushranger head.
The shotgun entry-wound sized nest holes blasted
into mounds by the birds, as though evolution had
manufactured the perfect cavity for humans to
dynamite these architectural wonders of the insect
world. The cool pyramids sawn off at their bases;
cut down like pseudo-trees or scooped up in the rough
hands of front end loaders & rolled into tennis courts.
The ignorant paddocks of youth where natural beauty
was witnessed in the solitary survivors of cultivation.
Coolabah trees surrounded by seas of grass, trunks
twisted like the wrenched skin of a ‘Chinese burn’ or
New Holland nymphs caught in a transformative act;
god-frozen as punishment for their greenest pride.
Half of them ringbarked by pink-flared galahs, their
stringy layers hanging off their limbs like a child’s
Band-Aid half picked off an arm or leg, undecided
about its ability to help heal the body’s dying flesh.
The understory broken by iron & fire like a rebellion.
Exotic grasses chewed down to their stubs by sheep
& cattle until even these conquerors were themselves
usurped by cereal crops & water-boarded cotton.
Hoofed animals who sacked the land’s fragile temple,
magnifying a historic benefit to the monocultural god.
Agriculture’s sublime gerrymander; the fascist knowhow
of combines & seed strains & harrows that clear-felled
the Brigalow belt. Soldier settlers of the 40s carrying on
the good fight to the Qld frontier, carving order out
of the dual forces of chaos; heat & drought. Trobuk
tanned, or Kokoda lithe, digging into their prickle farms
like a cattle tick into its host, head down, immovable.
Not the weather, not the banks, not the rising water
table that pulled salt skyward like a crystalline sunrise,
or the earthen heave of an underground atomic test.
Humans pushed the envelope of entropy: remnant
vegetation ensconced on Oakey Creek’s banks,
where wind & animal erosion dusted off eons
of silt from the fossilised skulls of diprotodons.
Fist-sized eye sockets stoppered with black mud.
Brigalow, now quarantined to rocky slopes like
the survivors of a flood catastrophe, or reduced
from its diverse wealth to begging beside highways.
North to Townsville, south to Narrabri, west to Bourke
& Blackall, the silvery-leafed acacias retreated meekly
into history’s hothouse. Their decline & fall predictable
as any overstretched empire’s, barbarians shutting
the gates on revegetation; reserves & hillsides
the last refuge of the disappeared. Ninety-five
percent of the black-trunked forest anchor-chained;
a billion victims of Bjelke-Petersen’s Frankenstein
invention, his iron umbilical bolt that connected
ex-war surplus gun carriers & enfiladed the land.
The Mallee’s murdered twin brother buried west
of the Great Dividing range & never seen again.
The countless bodies gone missing in the gidgee;
Darling Downs Hopping-mouse, White-footed
Rabbit-rat, Brush-tailed Bettong, Long-nosed
Bandicoot, Greater Bilby, Bridled Nailtail Wallaby,
Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat & Eastern Quoll.
These protein gradients dropping away without
a sound, as though they were regrowth suckers
poisoned by 24D. An extinct pastoral still being
energised as a red hot column whence fly the sparks.
Black wattle burning on a six million acre farm.
B. R. Dionysius was founding Director of the Queensland Poetry Festival. His poetry has been widely published in literary journals, anthologies, newspapers and online. His eighth poetry collection, Weranga was released in 2013. He lives in Ipswich, Queensland, where he runs, watches birds, teaches English and writes contemporary sonnets.