the jar

I found an old jar in her kitchen
that for long had remained unused

it was like one I remembered from childhood
that I used to cling on to

the trees in my mother’s garden were many and beautiful
though she lived in a small apartment
by the sea

of the silent guest at her table
she would talk to her family

yes the trees in my mother’s garden were beautiful
but the jar
I threw into the sea

of the silent guest at her table
the sea has no memory

navigation 

when conversation became difficult
I made for the shelter of the trees
looking back across the sun-bleached field
to where the party was in full swing
appreciating the amplitude of tall silences
that I could navigate more easily

from there I could see you slowly circling
coming to rest
before finally heading out

navigation

ascertaining a position
calculating the most favourable route
between one point and another

even when there is no point at all

navigation

just moving around

it takes skill

practice

finesse

when even gentle waters
can seem treacherous

safer amid trees

they don’t move around

at least don’t appear to

I whispered a quiet thank you
and plotted a course back

done with trees

two trees
they may be cedars
between the ridge and me
one is tall and straight
the other leaning slightly

I focus on the first
and breathe
accept the peace it brings

feel good
renewed
I stretch my arms
and then feel bad again

that’s meditation for you
what more can I say
it takes some time
I took the time
now I’m done with trees
for today

clearing

often his walk took him to the same spot
as if to an assignation

a clearing in the trees
where he expected nothing
and received nothing
while retaining in his heart
the most foolish of emotions
the feeling that he would be healed

as easily as taking off an old jacket
and going back to find another

which is fanciful
but there is more to life than one knows

and more to the dreams of the broken
than one might imagine

the churchgoer

a crow cries out
from an ancient yew
its purpose unknown
to those passing through
there far longer
than the church it adjoins
only the churchgoer understands
only old churchgoing crow

[first posted Feb 8, 2015]

twilight on Ashridge

twilight on Ashridge
and I am forgetting everything
to reflect upon
the thick mixture of mud
and deer droppings
I have just stepped in

who I was
what I’ve left undone
my way back through these woods
so rich in beech and oak
where I come to walk the dog
and have my quiet smoke

looking back
I remember feeling
much the same in youth
hemmed in by thought and mood
imprisoned and yet lost
I turn to find I am watched
thin velvety antlers
not long from the pedicle
barely discernible
amongst the twiggery
of this ancient world
that in a few short weeks
will change into something
thin and brittle as
a pensioner
with a purse full of coppers
that at last opens
then won’t close

well
we all find closure eventually
ready or not

now
one snap from me and he is off
prancing free
back to the herd
where he belongs
and where
if truth be told
I have always been at odds

bark

i.

trees have bones just like us
only made of different stuff

that’s stupid – you said
it’s just wood

I ignored the jibe and carried on
it was after the storm
we were walking in the forest
inspecting the damage

branches lay like spillikins
strewn all over the place
or poised perilously
like in a giant game of jenga
a huge conifer had toppled over
and someone had worked hard
to make a dwelling
like a ruined chapel in its loins

it’s nothing like a chapel – you said
– and anyway trees don’t have loins

I know – I said
but if they did they would be deep down
where giant roots draw up sustenance
from the sleeping earth
there you find the best soil –
I was guessing but it sounded right

oh – you said – I knew that

yeah right – I said

what do you think caused this huge
dip in the ground – you asked

meteorite – I said

you laughed – that’s the stupidest thing
you’ve said all day but at least you
didn’t say crashed ufo

it could have been a crashed ufo – I said

let’s go home now – you said
– you’re right though – as we passed
a pile of branches looking like a
giant rib-cage – trees do have bones
but I’m still going to call it wood

they have skin too – I said

yeah – thick skin – it’s called bark

no – I said – that’s something dogs do
– this is what I mean

ii.

see you later – you said

I believed you and hung around for hours
it was the first time you’d called me an idiot
and I was touched
such frankness could only strengthen our relationship
I thought

how wrong could I be

but I finally worked it out today
when you say – see you later
you mean – see you sometime
maybe never

I’m sending you a photo of what I saw
while I was waiting

life is like bark

you work it out

see you later

iii.

I went out to the woods again

this time on my own
where once we walked in step of sorts
now I walk alone
I brought a piece of bark back home
to hang upon the wall
of all the lessons life has taught
the harshest one of all
is now before me

bark shall remind me

each day remind me

bark

Bark
c. Ichtor | Dreamstime.com

[posted 20 Nov. 2014]

woodpile

a stack of logs
lying by the hearth

silver birch
elder
beech
larch

everything returns
into the earth

larch
beech
elder
silver birch

and the blackbird’s song
that lingers on
from the woodpile

and knows no hurt
like human hurts
by the woodpile

creak

year after year
this oak tree has stood
with the chalk hill behind
and its acres of wood
today I’m as quiet
as an old tree can be
as cold and unmoved
as that chalk hill I see
without looking

just cooking

something deep down
unfashioned unfound
as a spring underground
on that hill I can see
without peeking

just creaking

like an old tree
will in the wind

windfall apples

your laughter is a gift
like windfall apples
but twice as sweet
though apples bury me
in thoughts of how a glut
is often followed
by a barren spell –
no apples on the tree