Dragon’s blood tree boughs stretch upwards
from a grove in the limestone plain, well within
view of red granite peaks whitened by lichen
and towering above snails, beetles, lizards,
and freshwater crabs, endemic denizens
of an archipelago isolated in space and time.
While monsoon winds reshape dunes,
islanders trudge past the fuchsia desert rose
whose rotund trunk belies its toxic bark,
strips of which are claimed by goatherds keen
to spare their kids from feral marauders.
Locals afoot beneath highland mists come
to harvest croton shrubs for medicinal properties
and gnarled frankincense trees for aromatic resins.
The alertest survey the vista, glimpsing among seabirds
a maternal kestrel bearing grub to nestlings
huddled in a recess along the steep cliff.
To outsiders these isles seem remote and harsh,
a landscape uninviting; unbeknownst to them,
the habitat once legendary and at the world’s edge
teems with nature’s variations, a panoply of riches
expressing the diversity of that chameleon, life.