The Onceler

Today as I ate my lunch I spoke to Mum.  She told me about the distress of visiting their neighbour whose property was at the point where two big fires converged.  She told me about all the dead wildlife – possums, roos, wombats and a wallaby barely able to hop who they couldn’t help.   About the cows in a dam – half survived and half were burned.    I choked on my quiche and had to push it aside.

The mood, the death, reminded me of a poem I wrote as an exercise for a writing class.  The style of poem is called a Villanelle.  Wikipedia describes villanelles thus: “A villanelle, also known as villanesque,[1] is a nineteen-line poetic form consisting of five tercets followed by a quatrain. There are two refrains and two repeating rhymes, with the first and third line of the first tercet repeated alternately at the end of each subsequent stanza until the last stanza, which includes both repeated lines.

My villanelle was about my parents’ geese who ( during the previous drought in the early 2000s)  proved no match for the local wedge-tailed eagles.


And so we created an eagle gong

of fencing wire and a lid of iron

but will it protect the geese for long?


We hoped for a tinny windswept song

to chime across valley and river stone.

And so we created an eagle gong


To strike itself with a haunting dong

and keep the eagles spooked and shy.

But will it protect the geese for long?


The hammer’s a corn can and a barbed wire prong.

The goslings, one by one, have gone

and so we created an eagle gong.


It hangs from a Stringy by a leather thong

and waits for the wind to sigh and moan

but will it protect the geese for long?


To see those feathers, the death. It’s wrong.

The poor gander marches, bereft and strong

and so we created an eagle gong.

But will it protect the geese for long?


Even the gallant gander, who fought bravely for the lives of his flock, died in the end.

Tonight a friend reminded me of Dr Seuss’ book The Lorax in which the selfish Onceler is so driven by profit and self-gain that he entirely denudes a whole area of resources and all the other creatures have to leave.    Of course, in the story, the Onceler’s empire fails with no resources to abuse and no customers to buy produce.

My friend commented how sad it is that this story for children with its simple message was written in the 1970s and yet people still don’t get it.

Indeed.  In fact, the Onceler is currently our PM.



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