Her Majesty’s Engineers are working hard
with their Polish colleagues to erect
a twenty foot high wall of razor wire
in the Bialowieza Forest –
with its bison, moose, boar, lynx, wolf – the last vast
vestige of Europe’s great afforested plain,
after humankind’s relentless assartment.
This is the forest of the Battle
of Smolensk, the Katyn Massacre,
the Sobibor Extermination Camp.
Jews took refuge among the ancient trees.
Now others are seeking asylum
under the birch and the pine. The wall of wire
threatens all even ‘the fowls of the air’.
Probably before any one of us
had a name, definitely before countries
were imagined, and charts devised, there were
hours, days, weeks of forests of oak and spruce.
The trees lay where they fell. Multitudes
of insects flourished, and saplings grew.
Around the margins scattered people
gathered, hunted, respected everything
even the stones – and watched the brown bears in spring
grazing on the wild garlic under the trees.Battle of SmolenskKatyn MassacreSobibor Extermination Camp