Helga Parl


In one of my many journeys I enjoyed with Cross Country Tours Australia, I came across a dead, yet upstanding iron bark tree. Its roots were partly exposed by the cutting of a gigantic, gaping hole next to it. The crown of the tree was now, what looked to me an angry face, accusing me and every other spectator of its demise.
I wrote a poem about it, trying to tell the world of its plight. Yet as a writer of short stories, I also saw a possibility for a mystery story in it.
I started to write, adding ever more characters to the plot … After thirty thousand words I came up for air. An interesting novella? Perhaps. But my tree had been reduced to little more than part of the landscape in which the action took place, its plight forgotten.
After a sleepless night, I decided on a re-write. By removing several characters and with them lots of dialogue and coincidental action I succeeded in reducing it to its original purpose, a solution for the future to safeguard the land.
The hole was closed, the land around the old tree regenerated and a seedling of an ironbark tree from a neighbouring property given to it as a companion.
And the mystery? It was resolved in tandem with the land’s regeneration. The original premise was drawn back into the mind of the reader.

The Ironbark Tree

It was king over field and forest
Standing proudly, sheltering bird and beast
From wind and rain.

Now, since the open mine starved it of water
It’s but a shadow of its former
Glorious self.

Immeasurable greed of man has
Slashed away its kingdom, cutting a hole
So deep you can’t see its base.

Down there the coal was found
Dug out and carried to the surface
To be shipped to foreign ports.

One day, coal will be worthless to the world
Yet in the meantime,
The lonely, crusty sentinel keeps watch
Accusing tourists of a deed they did not do.

The original poem was published in the Fairfield Writers Anthology ‘Turning Points’