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A Poem by Rebecca Meldon

slick sick tissue-paper tick

we were not meant to fly!

No wings sprout from our shoulder
a chainsaw revs
the diseased are culled,
set in piles of chopped-up limbs
like leper bones

the aerodynamic apocalypse tightens its fists around
ash trees, sooty branches

like my boots into the vivid disinfectant, a few shades brighter
than dusky Pepto-Bismol

the trees from Dad’s youth
reduced to sickly tinder
box. Drink up your tears
and strike your match.

A Statement by Rebecca Meldon on her process

I grew up in the countryside and am fascinated by plants, trees, forests, and the relationship humans have with their environments.


Unfortunately, human activity hurts nature relentlessly; the spread of botanical diseases is only one example of this.


“{Icarus/Dieback}” explores the anthropogenic causes of the spread of Hymenosyphus fraxineus, a fungus commonly called ash dieback. In the title, “Icarus” and “Dieback” are linked in braces, the curly bracket symbols used to pair words together when they belong in sets. I chose to title it like this to reflect how self-interested human activities—represented by “Icarus”—are inextricably linked to the decline of British forests over time.


Ash dieback originates from Asia and did limited damage to native varieties like the Chinese ash. However, imported ash timber and saplings, plus airborne seed movement spread the fungus to and around Europe, home to susceptible species that were unexposed to this fungal disease. Were it not for the demand for cheap timber imports, this fungus might not have blighted the continent.


Subsequently, many of our forests are now full of sectioned-off trees scheduled to be destroyed, and buckets of brightly coloured disinfectant are left at gateways to encourage hikers to clean their potentially contaminated boots.


80% of the UK’s ash tree population is expected to die because of this disease. Thus, I wrote “{Icarus/Dieback}” to memorialise the European ash tree, a magnificent species being infected and destroyed by human invention and enterprise.

Back to BoundBy: Desire (Edition #4)

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