The Forests will Echo with Laughter. Part 2.
Anemones frizzled sparks beneath the trees
and bluebells rippled lakesides in the glades
the day Amelia Hamilton first breezed
into the woodland camp
sequestered in the shade.
Although no one had seen her face before
they felt she had been born to live among them.
Willing to muck-in with all the chores
the new recruit soon proved
more expert than the young men.
Chopping wood, securing knots and lashings
to build the treehouse dwellings where they slept,
anyone could overlook her passion
for stuffing voles and owls:
the oddities she kept.
Those were peaceful days before the diggers
dozed the railway’s path right to their door.
Happy days, the activists like figures
punching fruiting heads
up through the forest floor,
some quite interchangeable with trees;
their moss-brown beards near rinded through with lichen;
what clothes they wore, virescent as the leaves
and skins a guileless green
like nuts before they ripen.
One man there was whose presence left a mark
like tannic stain, whose attitude she rated
rougher than the texture of tree bark.
John Greenwood was his name,
as someone told her later.
Something in the bearing of this man
stirred up dim reminders of her father
present one day, then the next day gone,
his influence on her
weightless as a feather.
This John Greenwood’s calls were just as fleeting
though he was well respected, that was plain.
Sometimes he attended campfire meetings
but then for all the year
was absent once again.
The years Amelia’d grown up with her Gran
came back to her: the years she’d been abused,
whipped with belts and whacked with frying pans.
She’d bottled up a rage
not easy to defuse.
And when she turned once more to taxidermy
anomalies she found gave grounds for panic:
a duck that had evolved an epidermis
thick enough to thwart
a spray of shotgun pellets;
a hedgehog that wore, underneath its spines
a carapace exactly like a tortoise
enough to rend a truck wheel’s crush benign;
a fish with aerial lungs
to breathe above the water.
These signs she read as rapid evolution,
a desperate amendment by the planet;
nature bashing out a botched solution
to all the novel pains
us men have heaped upon it.
And now her rage bore down on this new cause.
When ‘dozers came on site she climbed on top
and surfed the beasts till they were forced to pause
and Health and Safety rules
required all work to stop.
When men with chainsaws came to cut the trees
they’d find Amelia handcuffed to a trunk
her bound, defenceless body like a tease
daring them to drive
ahead with their attack.
This garnered her respect around the camp
and several times she featured on The News.
Now in the media spotlight she was swamped
with lucrative requests
for quotes and interviews.
Restful days - her “day-off” days - she’d mull
upon the trials that prompted her to this.
What made her not like every other girl
but wedded to this life
of argument and risk?
So when she had the time she took to roaming
down the secret pathways through the woods,
and kept her intellect awake by naming
animals and flowers,
as many as she could.
That rusty, blue-winged crow - a Jay;
the Robin, dumpy, orange chested;
the ramshackles of sticks called dreys
above her in the boughs
where agile squirrels nested.
Silvery flowers in dazzling constellations
flecking the ground were wood anemones.
Bluebells too engaged her fascination
plashing turquoise lakes
beneath the ancient trees.
Butterflies galore: the speckled wood
feeding on the copious blackberry flowers;
and ruler of them all, suffused in woad,
the Purple Emperor
amid its lofty bowers.
Here, one bright unblemished April day
Amelia’s way of life forever changed.
What came that morning never went away:
thereafter, her entire