Midas Shadow

There’s gold in them thar hills,
Black gold to be precise;
So they fenced them off,
Dug well after well,
And sucked out the oil like milk through a straw,
Uncaring and oblivious to the harm they were doing to the local flora,
Or the damage they were doing to the strata, the water table...

Then they distilled the oil to petroleum,
And pumped it into the atmosphere.

There’s coal in them thar hills,
So they stripped away the green,
Scarifying the terrain with open caste sores for miles around.

Then they burned the coal,
Smogged the air and rained acid
Onto the beautiful Northern Forests.

There’s gold in them thar hills,
Or some less precious metal,
Or nothing at all,
But factories and houses must be built somewhere,
So they wrecked the hills;
And when they’d torn down the last tree,
Concreted over the last meadow,
Shot the last tiger,
Skinned the last beaver,
Poisoned the last lake,
Harpooned the last whale...
When they’d reduced their once beautiful planet to an asphalt jungle,
A cesspit ocean,
And a field of soya,
They grew tired of gold,
But alas, it was now far too late to trade it in,
For not all the gold in their plastic world could buy them
A meadow, a twilight fox, or an eagle on the wing.

Now they had only half remembered voices,
And celluloid shadows to colour their dreams,
And remind them of the enormity of their folly.

[Originally published in VIRIDIAN.]

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