Methuselah, Voice of the Forest
The world is a forest,
Its trees reverberating with chatter.
The sounds that compose the background
Loudly scream their slants,
Repeating until all the animals and plants
Are in agreement
That the words that are heard most often
Are the only ones that matter.
The butterflies that hovered
And the parrots that fluttered
Sounded wingbeat to wingbeat,
“Save us! Save us!
The collectors with nets
Have come to trap us.
They will not stop
Until the jungle is empty
Of all the free-flying creatures
That are colorful and pretty.
We must alert the others,
Especially the pangolins and the elephants,
Who will become pets and food.
They need to believe us;
We have seen these strange predators from afar.
They have taken our relatives,
Our caterpillars and hatchlings
– Even our eggs –
And put them in cages.
Why are you – our allies, our friends –
Have you no compassion?
Have you not learned from history?
These black-hearted, white-skinned monsters will not be satisfied
Until they have turned our vibrant home,
Everything of value,
Into a lifeless cesspool of misery!”
The mosquitoes buzzed as a choir,
And began to share their insights
From centuries of encounters with people.
They did not fear Man,
Because their weaponry against him had no equal.
“How are these humans different from the rest?
We give that shallow species a heartbroken mood
Each and every day.
This is our forest, too!
They are our prey,
Totally outclassed because we hunt them without delay.
What scares them most is our kiss goodnight;
We are the reason why they cannot sleep without light.
It is not our fault that you cannot adapt to Nature’s Way,
That you cannot fight them with success as we do.
Survival of the fittest is what She, we, and even they mistakenly say!”
That was the belief
Of every bug in the air
And every slug on the ground,
That the creatures in cages belong there,
That they deserve no relief.
“The bigger animals are migrants, vagrants, vagabonds.
They attack us, slaughter us, and remorselessly move on.
You birds eat us by the millions without tribute.
You mammals tear down our canopy and destroy all the flowers.
Not even the seeds are safe when you are here.
Why should we help you when you bring terror to our doorsteps,
Leaving only excrement behind you as you pass us by?
You are not like us.
Can’t you see that our land would be better off without you?
Leave us alone.
Let the humans have their way.
Go ahead and die!”
Theirs was a chorus of incredible pressure,
Loud as loud can be, which is impossible to measure.
How can the choice of the masses be wrong,
A confederacy of insects, mollusks, crustaceans, arachnids assembled?
Their union was so angry, so convincing,
So forceful with its rejection,
That the larger animals faced certain death
At the hands of the smaller ones
In the echo chambers
Should they make public their objection.
The behemoths could neither enter nor leave forest country;
This was the decree of the Queen Bee’s Conference by the Sea.
Even though White Man had not made his introduction,
The community was already on the verge of total destruction.
The wasps and the ants had already turned against the birds and the bats,
With the help of the spiders and the scorpions
And the traitors – the rats,
Who built webs to contain violators of their rules,
Which would change without warning
To keep the majority of their subjects
In a continuous state of mourning.
Meanwhile, the large mammals could not hide
From the mosquitoes and leeches
That pursued them close to death;
No creature can avoid their ability
To find food without failure
According to its distinctive breath.
“How dare you!”
A mysterious vibration pervaded the forest.
“How dare you threaten the sanctuary!”
Its telepathic volume increased,
As if the Earth’s threshold of tolerance
For senseless bloodshed had been reached.
The soil shook as the branches and roots of the trees undulated.
The trees untangled themselves and caused a major quake,
Emerging from the ground in human form
To make the statement of statements
That would end the war between the species
That had put the fate of their world at stake.
“How dare you endanger the sanctuary
That we built over thousands of years!
You have ignored the voices of tranquility
– Ours, that of the plants –
That has lain the foundation for all life,
For your ancestors;
For your descendants, too.
We the trees are not inanimate objects.
We live and breathe and reproduce
At different speeds than animals like you.
Because we move so slowly,
We tend to live longer lives than most creatures.
This is true.
Our age has lent us sweet, sweet wisdom
That we transmit from generation to generation as fruit.
We are the guardians of that knowledge,
Of medicines, of what is good, of what is evil.
We survive floods and droughts,
Fires and hailstorms,
Lightning strikes, pollution, and parasites.
I am Methuselah,
The eldest of my brethren,
The second-wisest of them all.
I have spent five thousand years on a mountaintop,
A vantage point
That has given me the opportunity
To watch entire civilizations rise and fall.
The most important thing I learned from watching humans is this:
Fear is a powerful emotion.
It can be used to instill righteous behaviors,
Such as the healthy responses to mortal and moral dangers.
It can also be weaponized as prejudice
Until it becomes institutionalized as hatred,
Which ultimately becomes systematic violence.
For too long have I
– and we, all trees –
This madness has to end.
It will now,
Because the silence has been broken
And our words can never be buried or unspoken.
Not all people are bad.
Most are good;
This is true of all animals and plants,
Even those of us made of wood.
However, those with the power
To change reality for the better
Who choose to stand quiet
While those around them
Are being torn apart forever
Commit the ultimate act of cowardice.
They are like the worms and the bugs
– You insects –
Who forgot that the vertebrates
Have their essential roles in nature, too.
Many of the mammals and birds eat our fruit,
Which are the final stage of pollination
For the flowers
That supply the nectar for bee and wasp colonies.
As for the bats and birds and butterflies that take your jobs;
Do not worry so much.
They reach the plants that you cannot or choose not to touch.
As for the wreckage the giant mammals leave behind,
When they knock down those trees that form the canopies,
They do so with good intention.
Every one they knock down
Is fresh food for the forest floor.
Yes, even you slugs have heard this before.
This keeps every layer of the jungle healthy;
It makes space for new saplings galore.
How could all of you forget your place so quickly?
You have become significantly worse than what you feared
– The demons that you claimed the poachers to be.
You betrayed each other completely,
Which only gives the haughty white man the upper hand.
If you do not unite as one,
All of you will end up in cages
And the forest will die.
He will neither shed tears for you
Nor cease until all of you are gone
Or become his,
Whichever gives him the most money
In the end.
What of you, my friends?
Whom will you hear?
On your Conscience will you depend?
What of the rest of you?
Can you not see that you are like them?
Stop fighting amongst yourselves.
You have made each other weak.
When you see wrongdoing,
Do something about it.
Face it and speak!”