Spanish Chestnut

Like the tree it fell from, the fruit
contains multitudes. Soft as a nest,
sweet as a bauble at Christmas,
it’ll prick your fingers with a thousand needles.

Bring it indoors and inspect
its well-defended carapace,
learn its wintry rhythm, how everything
has a seed and a fruit, like this, in one shell.

The tree’s a wild squat creature,
all folds and openings. It wears
its five hundred years like a grizzled pelt;
a waterfall of wood – impossible to trace

where one thing begins and another
ends: knotted branches, ruffled bark,
lichen, moss and fern, dimples, burrs,
the fresh cut ends’ raw concentric circles.

The trunk, which is many trunks, rises
from a rusty ring of rotting chestnuts
striking back into the earth – a clock
of its own making. It’ll take more years

than this tree’s seen to shed all the grief
in your bones. Peel open the spiky case
and you’ll find two sweet brown nuts
squirrelled together in the plush-lined core.

Like the heart’s chambers, they spiral
between life and that dark you can’t see
beyond, the endless stretch of time you must pass
on to the future for her own safe-keeping.

From: Startling, New Writing North, 2022

Posted: Fri 11 Jun, 2021