To all the trees

To all the trees I’ve ever loved:

To the top-lofty pines in the Surbiton rec

Whose swaying called down fear like an incubus on my chest;

Whose sails the wind caught

And who smote me with the memory of the ’90s gale

When the wind had taken my five-year-old self for a tree

And uprooted and flown the branches of me,

Tethered by a hand to my heart-in-her-mouth minder.

O how the tree me flew, shook and quaked her leaves –

I looked askance at trees with that

Fear on my chest until – what – eight years?

Then I climbed (the youngest of four) –

Learning the limb-trick from sisters before –

All the lightning-blasted tree gods of Richmond Park.

I can still feel the smooth handholds of pale, barkless wood

As I hoisted into the Old Sycamore’s embrace at Petersham Gate;

Each branch’s worn depression had its function:

Here in a timbery nook a place for my teacup;

Here my fancied crown would go;

There a hollowed dip for my legs, just so.

Of the woods I was queen.

And in Bolton, Yorkshire, on holiday for a time,

I found another worthy trunking throne;

Its limbs stepped nicely for my climb

(I liked best to climb in secret and alone,

This vantage point to view the corduroy fields below);

To the tree which gave up a fine bow for my father

To bend and string for the Maid Marian in me;

To all the trees that were ever dens to embower me:

Where I scraped my knees and mudded school gingham dresses;

To the bone-tangling graveyard yews with their dark inky bark;

To the fierce, prickling hollies that smarted young fingers;

To my cathedral of horse chestnuts on Coach Lane, burning fiercely in autumn rains.

And you, my Spreader Oak, that I grow with now,

Cooking your acorn children on your boughs;

Older than me by several winters been and gone:

I would know you down to the heartwood bone.

Spread o’er me your speckled, scalloped leaves,

With their wasp-gall hangers-on,

So that I can breathe,

So that I can breathe.

One thought on “To all the trees

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