Pencil Pine, kooparoona niara
Fire echoes in the landscape;
the blaze rises as an absence,
flames that live in between the earth’s layers.
It is marked in the grain of a pine, contained
in the cache of a conifer’s long memory.
The moor has been swept bare by burning:
this survivor still stands, a solitary pencil pine
clinging to the northern escarpment of harsh country.
It endures, dreams its centuries of heaviness.
Its Gondwanan girth has slowly twisted;
bark bleached with sun and snow,
it burls and bends, resilient and taut.
Circumferenced by wet heath and phosphorescent moss,
its roots chase sustenance in the surface of peat,
strata of sullen rock a kilometre thick beneath.
Fire seems a distant prospect on the high plateau
amid stubby alpine scrub, and sparkling acidic ponds,
in air that tastes of cloud and cold breath –
puffs of sterile smoke lifting
from slivers of ice melt sluiced
down the green grooved trunks
of mountain myrtles and sassafras.
But each year’s fire and frost is etched into
the landscape; flames soar in the margins
of a tree’s mind. Its instincts take it deeper
into this map’s memory: ancestors stood here,
in an era before liquid mountain heaved itself up
from a fissure of black. Now, in this country,
conifers can adapt only to corners.
Alone, this one must wonder
for how much longer.
Image and text by Bert Spinks. Audio by Britta Jorgensen