You could see the signs which said that possums came at night
And fed upon this tree, they left their mark in fruit discards
And broken twigs and shredded leaves spread randomly
In careless piles beneath its ravaged canopy.
Our father ground his teeth, his frown a sentence to the pests,
Such waste he said, you’d think they’d eat the best and leave
The rest for us, but no, they have to have a taste of every one.
He cleaned his gun with dour intent, tonight they’ll pay, he said.
We could already see their furry pelts stretched tight upon
The drying boards at 2/6d each, hardening in the springtime sun,
Bleaching to a silvered grey, a fair reward to pay for widespread
Wanton waste these delinquent possums wreaked.
Brush-tailed possums, trichosurus vulpecula, or sons of Satan
By any other name whose personal claim to fame was their devious
Invasion of our orchard every year; we were fortunate they didn’t seem
To care for plums as near as much as peaches or nectarines.
But they wasted so much more than ever was consumed. The moon
Is right tonight, full and fair, our father reasoned, we’ll see them
In the branches clearly set against the moonlit sky, they’ll wonder why
We point out torches and peer intently at us before we shoot them there.
Have you ever seen the brightness of a possum’s eyes at night
When handheld light pins them in the night’s suspense?
Heard the high-pitched crack of the bullet which despatches them?
Ever heard the weary grunt, or softly fluid thump of their corpses
Bumping to the ground, or worse, the sound of panicked
Urine voiding down the trunk of a tree which gave no sanctuary?
I’m not proud of those bloody nights we took a heavy toll,
I’m not proud of the harsh controls we used in need to keep
Their numbers low, I am only glad we’ve grown to where we know
That here, our possums as of choice, don’t eat an avocado.