The Witness Tree
by Wendy Liles

I am currently active in ecological restoration and stewardship in the Chicago, Illinois (USA) region, and much of my writing emerges from that experience. Here is an example:

Yes, I saw them
murder the oaks,
saw them bludgeon
the soil with their
rough-hewn ploughs, then
with blades of steel
cut their mark of
possession. With
their bulldozers
they raped the land,
and tortured it
until in time there
were asphalt scars
too numerous to
I saw them
steal the darkness
from the night.

grasping cities
inch by inch seized
each corner of
the wild, leaving
naught-- or precious
little-- for those
of us who still
remained. They filled
the dawn with their
noise, drowning out
the soft laments
of the mourning
Yes, I saw.

They were barely
kinder to their
own- the dark-skinned
ones- the ones they
drove across the
deep, wide River
that flows now with
polluted tears,

Note: "Witness tree" is a term used to refer to the trees used by surveyors as markers as Americans moved west through this part of the country in the mid 1800s. Some of them still stand. See