Trees

I look out of my window today to see sky where there were trees. For two days this week, the recurring whine of a chainsaw has cut through the sounds of passing traffic and the songs of spring. Today, it is quieter, and a small group of tall trees – the tallest I could see looking south from here – are gone, leaving the view tamer, neater, emptier.

So it feels apt to post this poem from last year.

 

Elms

 

Yesterday I saw three elms,

living elms,

survivors,

in a secluded corner of a secluded garden,

accidental quarantine.

Markers of an old hedge line

now pressed up to a fence,

beside a wall.

Many trunked, and fringed with whippy stems

of recent growth,

toothed leaves larger than I remember

from years ago

when elm was just another in a list to learn:

oak, ash, horse chestnut, sycamore,

rowan, elder, beech.

 

There were elms in our garden then

along the wall that marked the boundary

with a nextdoor field

(we dared to trespass once – tiptoeing between dry cowpats).

Then there is a slender memory

of men who came with chainsaws

to cut them down,

to change the shape of the horizon,

and let in more sky.

 

Photo1488

This is an old charcoal drawing of some other trees, long-dead even at the time, but holding each other up. They too are gone now, and more sun reaches the beck by which they stood.

Copyright © 2014 Fliss Watts

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Song

The posts on this blog so far have all come from the accumulated bits of writing sitting on my laptop. I thought this one could do with a bit of context.

It came to me a year or more ago, when I was lying awake, with the rhythms of Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball in my head, on a Dutch barge belonging to some good friends. The barge, too big for our narrow canals, is moored on a tidal river, and twice a day it is lifted imperceptibly from the mud of the estuary, and just as imperceptibly set back down.

The flat land of the flood plain is protected from the spreading waters by a thin ribbon of raised land which carries the coastal footpath. Walking that path, you look out on one side over mud and reeds to the wider river, and on the other, over fields of sheep and acres of regimented orchards where rabbits tunnel in the flinty soil.

This marshy Saxon Shore feels ancient – the Romans came here long ago. The waters breathing in and out and the wading birds have always been here. But over there a road bridge leaps across the water and huge ships drift by. The modern world is not far away, only held at bay by the constant changing of this liminal place.

 

Song

  1. They are sleeping on the boats now
    To be ready for the flood,
    For the flood they know is coming
    To lift them from the mud.
    For the flood they know is coming
    To wash their fears away,
    They are sleeping on the boats now
    To be ready for that day.

Chorus:

Ten million stars float on the water

Ten thousand trees stand on the fell

A hundred knights sleep in the darkness

A single word to break the spell

 

  1. We are sleeping in the trees now
    To save them for that day,
    For that day we know is coming
    To carry worlds away.
    For that day we know is coming
    To teach us what is good,
    We are sleeping in the trees now
    To keep faith with the wood.

 

  1. He is sleeping by the fire now
    To keep away the cold,
    The cold he knows is coming
    To claim what he has sold.
    The cold he knows is coming
    To take his breath away,
    He is sleeping by the fire now
    Until the shining day.

4.

It is sleeping in the words now
The mem’ry of this life,
This life we know is slender
And bladed like a knife.
This life we know is fragile
And speeding fast away.
It is sleeping in the words now
The echo of this day.

Copyright © 2014 Fliss Watts