The Oldest Tree on Earth: The Curse of Methuselah


Poem One


Once you had garden of Eden,

Now you have this. Vegas.

A playpen in the desert. Bliss.

Here, 5,000 years of Civilization

Can be experienced in an instant.

Have a nice day. Enjoy.

For in a flash it could all be over.


Kings, emperors, deities

Craven images cast in plaster, neon lit.

Look on my works,

Ye mighty, and despair.

The smell of money in the air

A tawdry son-et-lumière


(A one-way street going nowhere.)


Your immortals are mortal, they were once flesh and blood.

Escape the delusion, the noise and pollution,

The true immortals are made out of wood.


They call us Bristlecone Pines.

They call me Methuselah.



Poem Two


Methuselah, Methuselah, this human

christens me, for he has counted

The candles on my cake... 4,600.

Am celebrity now and no mistake.

Am named. Am given voice.

The years, like necklaces bestow

a wisdom, humankind can never know.

Millennia, they come and go.

Have no eyes, but have seen it all

Ancient civilizations that you can

Only read about, Methuselah has sensed.

Am not part of history... No,

History is parts of me.



Poem Three


Unlike words, tree-rings never lie.

One year was freezing cold and dark

The sun was hidden in the sky

I tasted brimstone and it left its mark

Like a noose tightening, like a charred wreath.

What is this thing, I thought, called death?


You can read me like a book

Open me up and take a look:

History laid bare, a garland here

a crown there. Plain as a pikestaff

for all to see. Each year jotted down by me.

The state of the nation, an annual report

in ever decreasing circles. The wheels

of fortune, the cycles of despair.



Poem Four


If I had lungs I would be coughing

A throat, I would be parched

If I had eyes they would be stinging

Flesh, it would be scorched.


Sulfur, smoke and cinders

enfold me like a shroud

There is no silver lining

only poison in this cloud.



Poem Five


Water, water everywhere and not a drop...

To think that down there, battery trees

Like plumped up turkeys stand proud and vain.

Bloated and unaware that they are but a switch's

throw away from death.


Water, water not forever...

For twenty-four hours a day, fountains play,

Spraying graffiti that mocks a desert kept at bay.


But nature has a way of saying "Enough."

After the pride there comes the fall

After the boom, the bust.

Remember man that thou art dust,

And unto dust...



Poem Six


Men drop to the earth like leaves

Lives as brief as footprints in snow.

Bristlecones enthroned on top of the world

Watch civilizations come and go.

They seek our secret, immortality,

But search in vain, for it is vanity.

If truth be known I would rather

be a flower, or a leaf that lives

and breathes with brief intensity.

My life is as thin as the wind

And I am done with counting stars.

On the side of this mountain

I might live forever,

Could you imagine anything worse?

My name is Methuselah and this is my curse.


Roger McGough