Legacy

A rainforest stood here,
Its mighty canopy spread far and wide,
Grubs and insects flourished in the mudpools and leaf falls of
    countless millennia;
Birds of a primaeval paradise built their nests high up in the
    trees, safe from the prying eyes of ever-hungry predators;
Savage beasts roamed the forest floor,
Poisonous snakes, vicious lizards and free stinging insects
    infested the trees at every level.
There was pain in the forest, there was suffering,
There was blind, uncaring cruelty,
For such is the nature of selfish genes,
But it was good.

Then, faceless men in distant ivory towers plotted its destruction.
Other men, workers, were sent into its heart and ordered to lay
    waste to the forest that their children might eat,
They wore steel helmets, padded clothes, and grim masks for faces;
They drove heavy machines and, using sword, scythe and fire
reduced a milions years of evolution to a pile of wood
    and a bowl of dust.
They built cities and road,
And where they didnít build, they left a Martian landscape.
This was once a forest.

This is a lake - was a lake,
For a lake is more than a mass of water;
A lake is life,
And this lake teemed with life,
In its depths, all manner of fish foraged among green weeds;
In it shallows, minnow swam and frogs spawned,
On its banks, birds rested, rodents hunted,
And all manner of reeds and rushes grew.

This was a lake, until men poisoned it.
Oil, sewage, pesticides, industrial waste, flotsam, acid rain...
And all manner of chemicals most foul
Were dumped here,
Poisoned its life fluid,
Choked it to death,
Until only bacteria could breed in its sludge and filth,
And then not even them,
This was a lake - now it is liquid death.

This was a city, a great city,
As great as any ever built,
Now, few buildings stand amidst the rubble,
No voices are heard:
Not human voices, nor animal,
Its denizens are gone, its trees are dead,
Here and there a few weeds spring up between
the cracked paving stones,
Or between jagged shards of window glass.

Here stands a wall, etched on it a shadow,
The shadow of death,
And all that is now left
Of what was once a man.

[Originally published in VIRIDIAN.]

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