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The Upas Tree

by
 Deep in the desert's misery,
far in the fury of the sand,
there stands the awesome Upas Tree
lone watchman of a lifeless land.
The wilderness, a world of thirst, in wrath engendered it and filled its every root, every accursed grey leafstalk with a sap that killed.
Dissolving in the midday sun the poison oozes through its bark, and freezing when the day is done gleams thick and gem-like in the dark.
No bird flies near, no tiger creeps; alone the whirlwind, wild and black, assails the tree of death and sweeps away with death upon its back.
And though some roving cloud may stain with glancing drops those leaden leaves, the dripping of a poisoned rain is all the burning sand receives.
But man sent man with one proud look towards the tree, and he was gone, the humble one, and there he took the poison and returned at dawn.
He brought the deadly gum; with it he brought some leaves, a withered bough, while rivulets of icy sweat ran slowly down his livid brow.
He came, he fell upon a mat, and reaping a poor slave's reward, died near the painted hut where sat his now unconquerable lord.
The king, he soaked his arrows true in poison, and beyond the plains dispatched those messengers and slew his neighbors in their own domains.

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