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A Tree Falls

by Jerry Martien

Here’s what happened in the woods today.

Let me show you what you get

when you trespass in the redwoods.

Life spilled on the forest floor.

On thimbleberry, sword fern, salal.

Here’s what kills you in the forest today.

Not old Mr. Death who was always around—

it’s the little death you get when the cycles die.

Dead little wheels of adding machine,

gear and sprocket and links in the chain.

Death rising from a new underworld

of corporate giants and small-hearted men.

When you step in the way of profit.

In the forest where life is cheap.

Nettle. Sorrel. Blackberry. Blood.

Thimbleberry, sword fern, salal.

What you get in the woods

when balloon payments are due.

When the trees are mortgaged

and the pale accountant

comes around to collect.

What happens when property

comes before life. What happens

in the State Department of Forestry.

In the Regional Water Quality hearing.

What begins in the PalCo board room

and ends in the office of the County DA.

With the Sheriff and his deputies.

Show me your permit and

here is your writ and some

pepper spray for your eyes.

What you get when they

don’t need you around.

When they liquidate the ages.

You get incidental take.

Regrettable loss. Collateral kill.

Thimbleberry, sword fern, salal.

Let me read you the listing you get

when you are in the redwoods

for any reason but to log them.

Spotted owl. Murrelet. Coho.

Let me show you the wood chips you get

if you’re a non-commercial species.

Alder. Tanoak. Yew.

Here is the sentence you get

when dead language rules.

Dead words in the law.

A dead hand holds the gavel.

Another generation in prison or exile

for trying to stop a war.

This is what happens

when you let kids in the woods.

When they get in the way

of haulers and fallers

blinded by rage and fear.

Of company goons serving the

laws of profit and loss.

Cascara. Huckleberry.

They get in the way.

Salamander. Frog.

They get underfoot.

Thimbleberry, sword fern, salal.

It happens again and again:

Kids start thinking they can

end war. Bring peace

to a nation that sells poison

and lies to its children.

They start getting in the way.

They sit at lunch counters.

They circle the pentagon.

Lie down at the gates of nukes.

Lock themselves to the gates

of log roads and lumber mills.

Look. Children in the understory.

Horsetail. Deer fern. Calypso orchid.

You see what happens

happening again. See them

clinging to the tops of trees.

Hanging by ropes from the sky.

On the ground day after day.

Trillium. Bearberry. Gentian.

Thinking they’re going to win.

Bringing their lives to the forest.

Bringing life to the trees

for one more season.

Thimbleberry. Sword fern. Salal.

Life to the forest.

Life to the forest defenders.


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