Thirty-six years ago I ran away to Australia. Six months after I’d arrived I found my way to an island off the Great Barrier Reef. Yes, it was paradise.
|A very old, much-yellowed picture of sunrise from my island bedroom window|
A few years later, however, back in England, I wrote this poem about something that happened there.
Toads squatted all along the paths around the hotel where I was working. They were huge and you had to dodge them like un-stepping stones. I think now that they were probably cane toads, native to Hawaii but introduced to Queensland in the 1930s to control pests in the sugar cane fields. They spread rapidly and started to eat their way through the indigenous wildlife. They became – and still are, I believe - an enormous problem.
Even paradise has its troubles.
I never thought to free you then,
while there was still a chance
that you might live.
Instead I watched you struggle
day after day
for a week.
I shrank from your ugliness and your pain,
while your dinnerplate body
shrank in the tropical sun
and hung there like a trophy.
‘One of the men will deal with it.’
‘Let nature take its course.’
‘What’s one toad more or less?’
But, while I dithered,
|A young cane toad|