CHAPTER TWO—The Slash and Burn Season
The fire roars.
The axes bite.
The trees scream in silence.
The refugees of the forest floor scatter.
The birds in the canopy explode into the air
In flocks of flustered flight
The wind hisses as embers and sparks
Blaze hotter in its harsh breath.
She stares, as petrified as her arboreal sisters
Never having known the heat of flame
Never having known the sting of steel
Back in the safety of the deep woods’ silence.
Yet she does not run, does not scream.
Those who are born trees do not have
The instinct of flight.
“Are you quite dumb?”
asks the fire-eater suddenly appearing,
sitting on a stone at her feet.
An odd, lanky sort of fellow
With eyes of trickery and hunger
And colors of red, orange and gold.
“I will profit from the slash and burn season
As the farmers ignite and clear the land
On her majesty’s orders.
I will lick away the lingering flames
And gorge on the ash and embers.
But you will only burn and die.
Perhaps you have no love of life,
Or perhaps you do not understand death?”
She scratches her head, her hair
As white as the down of swans
And peppered with plum blossom pink.
“Why do they steal life from the forest?
Why are the fruits and nuts of the forest
Not good enough for them, that they
Must burn it away for their own intentions?”
“Her Majesty believes the land here holds magic,
Deep in the depths of the soil,
And she would possess it, wherever it hides,
So she claims that this land and all within it
Belongs to her, not to Nature, not to the world.”
“Come with me, show me this ‘Her Majesty.’
I will show her the error of her ways.
Yes, there is magic here. I am proof of that.
But the magic is life, it is beauty.
And she will regret burning it away.”
The fire-eater grins, stands and spins,
Singing, “Oh, foolish little tree of plum,
So far a distance you have come
To face the iron wrath of her majesty.
You’re destined for only tragedy
And you will burn too, if she wishes.
When you do, I’ll find you most delicious.”
“But plums are symbols of youth and courage.
For me, your warnings will not discourage.”
So they walk, fire and tree,
Towards the royal city to find
Her most mysterious, manic majesty
Leaving ignorance and innocence behind.