Forest Notes

Scots Pine

Among such elders
gratitude a lifetime deep.

The crumbly crackling needle-bed
a welcome to lay down

to see and be seen.
The sky is a long way up

a plane drones by.
They look down like wise old women.

Their resinous fragrance
spreads through and through

touching the ground
why do I forget this



The weight-bearer, arms straight out.
Blunt as a countryman's tongue.

Boughs splinter tear off,
it doesn't matter.
Gashed to the heart
it keeps going.

Fists at the branch tips.

A wild scattering of acorns.
Food and shelter
for every snuffling and chirping thing.


But if this one goes we're finished.


Silver Birch

As you walk in the dusk
through winter
the white trunks are gleaming.

Like poems.
Mooring posts in the dark ocean.

At the touch of March
the first ripple
they break into leaf.

Young ones spindly
bark crinkling like school-girls' knees
ageing into blisters and scabs.

After each clear-cut
they return
through the wreckage.

Green turning silver
in a shower of leaves.

Spring's true note



Scrambling downhill
through bracken and brambles,
I'm getting more complicated.
Plans and people.

In the mud, at Moorhouse Lane,
the beech stop me.
A line of them, goddess-limbed;
their statuesque nudity.

Further along, there's another,
all muscles, roots wrestling the soil.

The light soaks their leaves,
the broad horizontal fans that,
as this year grows colder,
will burn red-gold.

On fire with the ascendant.
While what remains
struggles with time and things and certainties,
grey as weathered statesmen.



Beside the bridge, I see an ash,
see Yggdrasil,
the tree that links earth and sky.

But there is no ascent, no gods.
The leaves are not
the feathers of some huge eagle.

This is more marvellous.
Roots bind and suck
fibres pump, leaves feed on light,

its world an arrival
that rests in gladness.
In its own sound, unshifting.

The stream has no journey,
the ash has no name.
And my mind is just this.



Yew has its own season.
We enter there briefly,
at the turn of the year,

the point between this world and the next;
enter, burn logs and drink,
and sing of what was and might yet be.

The yew has one time only –
the darkly green present.

Rooted in death,
this tree will stand in this world
while a thousand years rage

and our bodies flare,
smoulder, and go out.
While the yew holds its gate open.



Tough and glossy
the fine-honed leaf
arches in the curl of my hand.

A silk-skinned prickle;
a scorpion ready to strike.
The berries are blood-gems.

King of winter,
of this bone-cold house:
enter, piercing the heart

with the truth about flesh;
about the evergreen outreach –
hold me hold me.

Its glowing crown
is nailed to the door.

Enter, triumphant.


Elms at Night

At night
the woodland doesn't sleep.

It breathes in,
drinking the milk of moonlight.
Bracken shudders, the leaf-carpet
rustles; the wild ones call and cry.

A dark shape shuffles;
there's a brief shining eye.
Then at dawn it's the out-breath, in a haze of colours.

Woodland knows and lives its body.

Elms growing straight
through death after death.

As their disease clusters round them,
they're clear.



The dangle of berries
clumps of them, unripe,
fattening for autumn.

The passion of fruit
to flesh into red;
its merciless surge

its birth-lust.
To swell and be eaten.
To be stripped down to seed.

The earth holds my feet
and the sun wraps my neck.
Waves, floods; thought goes under.

Let sap storm; let scarlet.
Life is a rape, a burn-out;
but the rapture that hooks me is green.


Lime at the Margin

Here, within this canopy,
behind the lime-tree's waterfall,
there's room to be.

Quiet and cool,
enough for a seeing;

an outlook, a view
through the leaf curtain
at all us people
going in and out of doors.
Our lives.

estranged from true strangeness
reaching out, sweeping past
this living stupa;
lost to recognition.

The great trees are unseen.

This is how, one eye on the clock,
Death began his rounds.

Posted: Mon 11 Aug, 2014