Aphelion Issue 260, Volume 25
April 2021
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Dead Forest

by David Baresch

I arrived on a coast, ravaged and broke, for a tsunami had hit and a world had split, and onto that shore the sea had roared, it thrashed, it wrecked, it savaged, it gored.

For on that day, that tragic day, the tide rose to a mountainous height,and that mighty rise pummelled the land, it slayed all in sight.

And when that sea receded, and when that rout subsided, sand and ash were all that were left for here now lay a desolate plain.

Yet, the day before that brutal strike a verdant coast, there, had grown, and a family of pines, 70,000 it’s said, had spread out before that north-eastern shore, yet now that forest is banished, dead.

For the briny uprooted those fields of trees and all were hurled into the sea along with a host of mourned for, grieved for, souls.

Yet, come that dawn, the next day, and on those acres of desolate waste, there stood a tree, a single, lone, surviving tree.

I made my way to hail that wonder, the only survivor of vicious plunder, and as I went, I carefully stepped for here was a land of the lost dead.

And a makeshift crossing took my tow, for here, once, a bridge had homed, but now that way, that tract of road, it gave a path to all no more.

On that makeshift bridge I stopped, and there I paused, and there I observed.

Rivets were shorn as that link was torn by that watery roar coming in from the shore. Yet, the stanchions still stood, grey and stark, and those pillars upright, of a concrete grade, they were all that remained.

These the ruins of a wrecked bridge, these the wounds of a severed link.

Who was it who said, ‘beware that road unstable, beware that road of fall, for those roads that shimmer like gold are tarred to fool us all.’?

I walked on, I reached that plain, I saw that expanse of sand, new laid, and that beach was peppered with fresh fallen ash, for here I set foot on a charred land.

Here, a beach, barren, here a beach, bleak, here a beach where only few would care to go and seek.

I stepped on sands caked with sludge, I trod on ash, stale and damp, I walked on a way now blackened and greyed, and blades of wind sharply skimmed, and the sands shivered as if afraid.

For here, fires erupted, here, flames torched, here, sands flared, leaving a shore scorched and bare.

Who was it who said, ‘fire’s flicker is warm and bright, fire’s flicker blisters and blights.’?

I walked on through those knife-edged winds that swiped across that desert plain, and those winds cut through a jig-saw of remains, and they sailed over an expanse of grave.

And there, a school stood nearby, battered, stripped, shattered, no life, when, underfoot, something squelched, I stopped, I stooped, and I looked.

There, a glove of a child’s size, a baseball glove, lost, not found, a glove for one so small and young, a glove now merging into the ground.

The child, who? The child, where? To ponder such thoughts, it is better not to dare.

And I heard the sounds of that tsunamic wreck, the yawns of metal, buckled and rent, the slap of lathes swinging from rafters, banging together, in those ghostly chambers of horror’s disaster.

And amid those groans there drifted a whisper, and such a whisper to behold, ‘twas as if those airs were the haunting breaths of those lost and wandering souls. And then there was that smell.

It’s the smell of the sea as in a dock where fish are caught. It’s the scent of a blaze as in a fire, a Halloween pyre. And it’s mingled together with sludge, grime, and mire. And then there was that taste.

It’s the taste of the ocean’s briny, as laced with the sea’s salt. It’s the tang of volcanic ash, as laced with cinders burnt. It’s a recipe of sea and fire. It’s a recipe of consequences dire.

Those scents and tastes were before unknown but now, in my mind, they still remain. ‘And what do those senses say?’ They speak of slaughter, misery, and pain.

I stepped on through that deathly air and I neared that lonely pine, its trunk, tall, its trunk, lean, and its branches spread out as if to greet, and there I heard the sound of hungry chicks’ tweet.

The chirps came from those branches high, and the chicks sat in a ring of twigs, they bobbed and twitched their tiny heads, they waited to be fed.

The chicks sang, for this their home, this their rest, this the gift of a mother’s nest, and that tree, alone, leafless and bare, it cradled new life within its care.

Here stood a message of hope, here a stood a message for all, for here is one who gives respite after tragedy’s cruellest smite.

And under that tree trinkets lay, these the codes of known gods, these the charms for future hopes, for this land now is worshipped ground, and visitors come, they show their revere.

The onlookers stand, the onlookers stare, they clasp their hands, they bow low, they let their thoughts go to their deepest prayer, while nearby photographers eagerly prepare.

The photographers meander, they circle, they angle, they stretch, they dip, they gaze, their options they weigh to frame this tree and to give it its place in memory.

Their cameras are trained and shutters click, for some, for news, for some, to reminisce, for this tree’s life is soon to cease and this demise will be the last of that fateful tidal wrath.

For, sea salt is in the ground, it’s in the tree, it’s in its roots, and salt burns and salt can turn fragile life into ashes in urns.

Here, a pinch of salt has prevailed where the mighty wild had thrashed and failed.

I gazed at that tree, standing firm, standing tall, its branches spread high as if to beckon unto the sky, and on that coast, bleak and broke, I saw a tree that gave all hope.

The ripples of waves broke my trance for there, nearby, very nearby, the tide lapped with a gentle caress, so much so, that the might of a watery threat one may not expect.

For, on March the 11th, 2011, tectonic plates pressed together, stresses grew, a landmass broke, a plate leapt up, it hammered back down, and tremor after tremor rumbled and rattled belting through a rocking land.

And the ocean above that historic quake rose to an unknown height and coastal tides left the shores as the sea began to withdraw.

And that climb of sea flooded back down, it collapsed in a tonnage of weight, and wave upon wave outwardly rolled speeding towards the north-east coast, and there, the seabed inclines.

The leading waves slowed on that rise and the waves behind quickly caught up, and there they stacked, and stacked and stacked.

That quake had raised a wall of waves and powered by that tectonic might and the sea grew to a mountainous height. That incoming tide was set to savage, smash, and blight.

Onto the shore those waves roared and across the land those waves razed, they blasted all within their path, and with the bloodiest deed done, the sea began recede. And homes, towns, cities, and trees, all were left in heaps of debris.

I took a breath, I paused in awe, and I thought with inner sight, I envisaged that time before the demise, I pictured the days of blossoming life.

Here, once, a forest had stood, 70,000 pines it is surmised, a coast once green with leaves and shade, but now a coast of hidden graves.

And as I imagined, the shadows lengthened, the sky slowly grew dark, soon the hour of the sun would pass, so, I stepped away and I said farewell to that survivor of a rampant watery hell.

And I looked towards that new-formed plain and there I saw folk at dig, they shovelled for those lost in that foam, they searched for loved ones who never came home.

And now, today, I speak of a time, a time now long forgot, for the hours they gather, they twist, they knot, and the time of each and the time of all, are hours long gone, hours now lost. Yet...

There came a dawn when the sun rose high and there below on a wasted plain, there stood a tree, an only tree, a tree that defied a raging smite, a tree that defied a rabid strike and a tree, upon whom, the sun did smile.

On a beach of the dead, the sun shines yet.


2021 David Baresch

Bio: D. Baresch Author of ‘Tides of March’ (Amazon.com) Giving experience of an earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown). Writer of articles for ‘The Weekly Telegraph’ & ‘New Humanist’.

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