General Poetry posted March 29, 2016

This work has reached the exceptional level
Brown burial in blue box.

Blue Coffin

by Sis Cat

You first notice the absence 
of the scent of pine needles 
in the forest—
no minty memories of Christmases 
spent searching the woods for a tree. 

You next notice the absence 
of the songs of birds 
in the forest— 
just the crackle and crunch of needles 
and branches beneath your feet. 

You then notice the presence 
of dead pines 
as far as the eye can see, 
along ridges and slopes and valleys, 
every evergreen now everbrown. 

Sweat trickles down your neck 
on this winter day, 
and you wonder what wood tastes like 
for the bark beetles, 
which felled the forests from Canada to Mexico. 

Your arms and body vibrate 
as your saw cuts an infected tree. 
Back at your shop, 
you sand, you polish, you run your fingers 
over surfaces stained blue by the beetles' fungus, 

And you think of the dead trees 
to be recycled this way; 
and of the customers on this planet; 
and you wonder if anyone will be left 
to build you a blue coffin.



I wish I was making this up, but I am not. Right now, the largest insect infestation in recorded human history is killing forests throughout America and the world. In the past, long cold winters killed off bark beetles, but now the winters are so short and warm due to climate change that the beetles thrive year around, decimating forests.

The beetles carry a fungus that dyes the wood blue as it is converted into food for the larvae. Drought has weakened the trees so they are unable to produce sap to drown the beetles. As a result, the fungus kills the tree within two to four weeks.

Billions of trees have died so far--entire forests. Some entrepreneurs came up with the idea of recycling the dead trees by building coffins out of the unnaturally, blue-stained wood:

The opening line of my poem is inspired by the closing line of the opening paragraph of Maddie Oatman's May/June 2015 article in Mother Jones, "Bark Beetles Are Decimating Our Forests": "There's no scent of pine needles, no sharp, minty note wafting through the brisk fall air." I structured the poem with each five-line stanza addressing one of the five human senses: smell, sound, sight, taste, and touch. The sixth stanza addresses thought.

I thank lightink, catch22, and TAB who suggested edits in the workshop, and rama devi, SweetLinda, michaelcahill, and I Am Cat who provided encouragement.

The closing image is of Colorado's Never Summer Mountains whose forest the bark beetles have decimated.

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