Ash Island – Lou Smith

Ships carried cedar to the harbour and beyond
past the tall mangroves of Ash Island
where stars still fall softly.
The island was cleared for a dairy and plantation kikuyu,
the great ash-like trees, the giant stinging tree
felled for new trees to be re-planted.
In the 1800s there were over 200 species of plants
recorded on Ash Island:
tuckeroo/ whalebone/ plum pine/ ash tree/
beefwood/ honeysuckle/ stringybark/ flooded gum/
pine/ rosewood/ cedar/ blue gum/ tea tree/ mangrove…
now my feet slide into the dark grey mud along the waterline
and walk the dry cracked soil of farmed land closer to the island’s centre.
There are still cattle here, eating the grass around the small shoots
of the ancient genus reaching towards the sky