It’s dangerous, returning where
You left your living herbs to root.
A trip to re-taste friendship’s fruit
Was bittered by a chilly air.
The trees that stood between brick walls
That hid along the alleyway,
Perpendicular and grey
Behind the street thick with footfalls –
Those trees that softened up waste ground,
Beloved by none who owned them, no,
Beloved by one who knew them so,
Can no longer there be found.
Eight sycamores, wind-strewn and wild,
A faded, fallen apple, broke
Beneath the ivy’s unfair yoke,
And hazel and its hopeful child,
The ashes, birches, and tangled low
Odd-limbed gooseberries, all leaf
Their chance to fruit far too brief,
My chance to help them years ago.
If anybody knew or cared,
I did – who slept beneath the branch
And dreamt that plot my mind’s wide ranch
And ate the berries birds had shared.
Returning down that concrete path
Something airy worried me –
Then bare sky lay, no branch, no tree,
And sorrow mingled up with wrath.
For all these deeds and rights to build
What value has the love of soil?
For profit pulled from a rebar broil
Who counts the trees the clearers killed?
Small pain, oh yes, for all fall, trees.
What sentimental rot – what pose!
But gloved hands felled and counted those,
That last were climbed and held by these.
I know the width of limbs, the give
And sway of outstretched arms that reach,
From letting slower creatures teach
And show me how to be and live.
God speaks in rocks and fruits and trees,
So shouldn’t I be sad and cry
That disregarded saplings die
That I regarded, gave me ease?
From bed – this bed – beneath this spread
I’d wake and see them greet the day
Or sleeping, hear the wind at play
To test them, twitch them, shoulders spread,
Roots wild-set but gripping close,
Joying, fighting with the gale,
Ducking rain and flicking hail,
And then in sun, remain, repose.
I left a lot there in that ground,
A sage-bush brought and cropped and strong,
The trunk split-twisted, leaves grey and long,
Potatoes not yet dug or found.
Nothing’s lost. I hope – it must be.
I know that God permits no waste,
And where our minds dash on in haste
He plays a longer game than we.
How many times a root re-springs,
How many times a spring re-flows,
Oh, every time you prune a rose
You prove the loveliness of dead things.