The Rambler

Trees by Fleur Adcock

Posted in Contemporary Meter by Erik Lloyd Olson on July 7, 2010

1   Elm, laburnum, hawthorn, oak:
2   all the incredible leaves expand
3   on their dusty branches, like
4   Japanese paper flowers in water,
5   like anything one hardly believes
6   will really work this time; and
7   I am a stupefied spectator
8   as usual. What are they all, these
9   multiverdant, variously-made
10   soft sudden things, these leaves?
11   So I walk solemnly in the park
12   with a copy of Let’s Look at Trees
13   from the children’s library,
14   identifying leaf-shapes and bark
15   while behind my back, at home,
16   my own garden is turning into a wood.
17   Before my house the pink may tree
18   lolls its heavy heads over mine
19   to grapple my hair as I come
20   in; at the back door I walk out
21   under lilac. The two elders
22   (I let them grow for the wine)
23   hang vastly over the fence, no doubt
24   infuriating my tidy neighbours.
25   In the centre the apple tree
26   needs pruning. And everywhere,
27   soaring over the garden shed,
28   camouflaged by roses, or snaking
29   up through the grass like vertical worms,
30   grows every size of sycamore.
31   Last year we attacked them; I saw
32   my son, so tender to ants, so sad
33   over dead caterpillars, hacking
34   at living roots as thick as his arms,
35   drenching the stumps with creosote.
36   No use: they continue to grow.
37   Under the grass, the ground
38   must be peppered with winged seeds,
39   meshed with a tough stringy net
40   of roots; and the house itself undermined
41   by wandering wood. Shall we see
42   the floorboards lifted one morning
43   by these indomitable weeds,

[Page 48 ]

44   or find in the airing-cupboard
45   a rather pale sapling?
46   And if we do, will it be
47   worse than cracked pipes or dry rot?
48   Trees I can tolerate; they are why
49   I chose this house—for the apple tree,
50   elder, buddleia, lilac, may;
51   and outside my bedroom window, higher
52   every week, its leaves unfurling
53   pink at the twig-tips (composite
54   in form) the tallest sycamore.


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