Books by Amalie Rush Hill

Indicator Species

Indicator Species

Do we ask so much, ye Spotted Owls,
Ye indicator species?
We ask to stay and cut awhile is all,
Until the forest is gone.
It is renewable.

Renewable resource:
Once the tree is down, it is no more.
The human billions on Earth are a
Renewable resource, too.
Where there are people now
There will be people tomorrow,
Different, but renewable.

We ask only to burn the rainforest.
Is that too much to ask?
We only wish to fertilize…
We only want jobs…
We only want to fill up this swamp
With waste…

The trees have not grown back
In the long-ago Saharan forest
Nor the only-yesterday
The petroleum poisons will not be polite
And leave when their job is done.
What is our job,
This precious work for coin that costs so much?
What is the problem with our coal-fired plants?
What is the problem with chemicals
To grow more and kill more pests?
What is it?

What is a renewable resource anyway?
A library?
A mind?
The wind?

The great hardwood forests are gone.
They did not renew.
The great evergreen forests are going
And the tropical forests, too.
So what is it with trees anyway?
Trees, the power plants of water,
Wind and oxygen.
They are beauty, home and soul.
They stand with their rooted feet in soil
So thin that a wind, fire and rain
Will wash it all away.
Eons ago great forests burned,
Blew down
And died of drought.
Their bodies remained to nurture the new.
Now they are ripped up,
Taken away and the broken pieces burned,
Exposing land, leaf and animal to instant violation.

Renewable resource.
What is the indicator species?
We are.
The timber man has lost his job,
Because of better machinery,
Because of recycled paper,
Poor economy …
Because of owls?
No, because like the owl,
He is endangered.
Set aside some forest
For the owl and the lumberman.
Which will be the first to use theirs up?

People are endangered.
We are everywhere and our numbers increase,
Still we are losing …
Losing the air, the water,
A suitable climate for living,
Losing ground.

Nowhere on earth does the wind blow clean.
Nowhere on earth does the wave lap pure upon the shore.
Nowhere on earth is a man’s worth related
Or relevant to the worth of a Man.
A man’s worth now is his paycheck
Once all men had work and their payment was life.

We are the indicator species.
We indicate destruction, disease, poverty,
We indicate ignorance and arrogance.
We indicate politics.
We indicate some important power held
Tightly and in vain.
We do not own the world.
We cannot hold power in our hands
Or our pockets
Or a numbered Swiss account.
We hold power in our hearts and souls.
We share the power
With the trees and the owls …
The whale and the wolf.
We share it all.

And when the rain falls no longer,
When the unfiltered sunlight burns corn and beans
And flesh;
When there is no water, or food or air,
Who will be left to get a job,
To pump gas,
To till and toil,
To teach the children?
Who will be left to hear the moan of the wind,
Rustling the dead leaves,
Crying for its Mother Earth?
Who will be left to hear Her
Crying silently to the dark skies
For Her children: the insects, the trees,
The birds, the grass, the horse,
The Man?

For so long, the Man indicated Tomorrows,
Dreams, beauty, love, so much
And gave not a backward glance;
Gave so little back.
Left too little.
Took too much.
Borrowed on Time.
Charged to the Future.
No credit left.
No job.
Can’t pay.

Spring 1992, Revised 2008

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