No history has carved a memory
In these woods. No folk melodies breathe here
In the mists of morning. The old pines lean
Helpless and dying where the storms have blown.
The gnarled hands of working men have bypassed
These crippled oaks. Stones lie where God placed them,
Nursing the disorder of creation.
The wooded hill bookends urban stories
Of the glow of blown glass, of the clamour
Of forged tools, of the chatter of tradesmen.
Trees lean back staring vacantly where winds
Sweep the far hills with melancholic verse.
They look to the skies for the songs they know,
From times beyond the reach of history,
And they sing them in the shiver of bones.
The Forest of Arden
When did the forests pass
From being our friends, our shelter,
To become home to our terrors?
Once our playground, the grass
In glades cushioning our tumbles;
Our larder, filled with fruits and nuts,
Home to boar, deer, pheasant,
Wild garlic, mushrooms and truffles;
Our haven, protection
From oppression by pow’r hungry
Barons, from raging tempests sweeping
Destruction across our tepid
Lives, from the pitiless sun,
From the stares of judging men.
Dappled light, bronzed evening delight,
The full throated chorus
Of the surge of new life,
The wren’s shy fluttering,
The urgent squirreling mischief
And the badger’s stately secrets
Belonged to our home world.
Was it in the flesh stained
Trenches, or the dark industry
Of genocide that we stepped
Through the wardrobe? Those are easy
Targets for explanation,
But hope left the forest
With the sunshine, brambles tangled
The pathways drawing blood
From the fleeing ankles.
Now the trees spy on us,
Shelter the arachnid horrors,
Breed the slithy weasels,
Guard the graves of the butchered
Hidden and waiting to haunt us.
Only the distant howl
Of creatures of the night
Bring music to this stillness,
To the damp dank despair
Of a world filled with greed
Blood lust and injustice.
A Daily Walk in the Woods 1
From where blows this wind, filled with the dampness
And scents of Summer? The grey clouds conspire
With the darkening greens to prepare us
For decay, and night’s triumph over light.
We speed our footsteps, seemingly driven
By the threat of rain. As I hold your hand,
And look out to the veiled hills of Shropshire’s
Drenched but unflinching stance against ageless
Blasts, our pace asserts our presence, affirms
Our momentary defiance of time’s
Crushing indifference; it is a faith,
Not lame as a clenched brow in a quiet room,
But lived, instinctual, in each nerve end
And sinew, driving us onward to home.
A Daily Walk in the Woods 2
It was a brown smell, a rich mustiness,
But eatable, and pulling us towards
Autumn’s nuts and berries.
This was the welcome to the day’s ramble,
To the escape, from thinking and duty –
Excused through exercise.
The brownness wrapped us, took us out of time;
Sepia tints, as gasping we emerged
To stride the summit ridge.
The path points ahead; a melodic line
Decorated by the nervous twitches
Of hidden fearful life.
Here the landscape bears the transient marks
Of human efforts to ward off ageing,
To keep alive a journey.
So we stand aside; a strand, 20 strong,
Passes us, evading the nettles’ sting
And running for their lives.
We move on, our pace equally purposed
Though less breathless, as a job to be done
Almost a kind of trudge.
Through the trees the view, patterns of sunlight,
The distant hills or the shades of evening
Lie blurred by private griefs.
But by startled pigeon’s gunshot wingbeats,
By the random fall of a rotten branch
We are stung back to life.
So we move on, to leave the hopelessness
Of art and beauty, for more practical
And domestic comforts.
Evening after Work
I stood apart – observing –
What? The evening light hinting
At the sun’s brightness,
The clear lines of clouds sharpened
By the echo of blue, now
A luminous slate.
Before me the field, scented
By rape seed, its rich yellow
Now an echo too
Even the moon turned aside
To watch something more vibrant
In worlds to the west.
Posing against the slate sky
Its shadow complementing
Mem’ries of colour
Stood a tree, able to see
Into the landscape ahead
Giving my view form
It stood, a silent comfort
Calmly watching with others
Still and secure, protecting
Me from the traffic’s roaring
Sound of man’s striving.
Then a shriek in the evening’s
Darkening, clear like a laser
Cutting the sight line
And I saw the tree was sliced
Machine like just to one side
To the north east, the graceful
Fronds reached out in harmony
With nature’s grandeur,
Its evening light, animal
Calls, and its scented freshness
Holding me entranced.
On the other side, all grace
Lopped off, an angular wall
Of branch stumps facing
A pylon as if only
A man made slicing could let
The tree turn its back
Away from the hard machines
The technologies, the graft
That savage the earth;
As I stood apart yearning
For the sumptuous beauties
That caress day’s end.
The Principal Dancer
From the window seat
In the pearl daylight
Colour not yet drained
Up to coat my face
With the ruddy shell
By which I go on.
Only the muddy
Pool in the gravel
Denied the quiet
Acceptance of dawn,
Across the ha ha
Stood the sycamore,
Poised as if dancing,
Arms spread, a slight twist
In the bark, tapered
To suggest balance
Held for an audience,
It seemed to belong
To a more peopled
Landscape, a city
Perhaps, staged and lit.
It seemed complacent
Here, gloating over
The more ravaged boughs
Set as acolytes
In the fields around.
Another day perhaps
And I , in its charm
Would see its beauty
As truth; balletic
Grace as defiance
Of time, the strafing
Squalls, and icing over
The nights of Winter.
I love the crippled trees
For whom survival
Is a victory.
Trees of Comfort
Why the crooked bone white tree etched,
Scratched indelibly behind our eyes,
As we stare at tales of death, sketched
In digital colours by armies
Bank-rolled by the poor and wretched
Escaping political lies?
Why the barren branches displayed,
Upheld in our faces whilst old men
Joke bleakly at empty lives made
Out of desperation, on fen,
Fell and urban sprawl, sure to fade
Into landscapes beyond all ken?
We do not rejoice in their growth,
Or find the promise of fruitfulness;
They are wracked ancient cripples both,
Survivors in their barrenness
It is true, like some mortal oath
Designed to curse and not to bless.
Survivors though provide some sort
Of anchor to which we cling, for fear
That life’s relentless machine has caught
Our lives, mindlessly scrubbed them clear
Of texture and purpose, and brought
The dogs of hell loosed snarling here.
This is the first of a set of ‘tree’ poems that I’ve put on my blog. I’ll collect them on a separate page…..