On the Felling of Trees
I hang my head from another’s shame
And walk the sterile cleft
Between opposing villas
Long since laid out
Along paved thoroughfares
For those aspiring
And those toiling
Under Sheffield’s perpetual
Try to capture the spring of step
The grind of practised hinge
Or hobnail spark
Of those that set out early
To shuffle or slide
Down to mill or foundry gate
Beneath spring’s enfolding canopy
Heads held high
And breathe the Riding air
Blown in from surrounding hills
Once blighted by soot and charnel smoke
Blighted still by me
In certainty of absolution
That planting would redeem us yet
We set them up
To cleanse our world
And heal our spirit
But crave no forgiveness
When killing costs less than caring
And five a.m. sawing
Finger tip follows
Water drops, down chiselled paths
Of puddle stone
Leaf-lamp black, wooded heights
Corvid cry that plants the seed
Latent ardour, simmering need
Ruffles the accepted creed
Step out lightly, charting ways
Through possibility’s wild dance
Punctuate passage with fervent glance
Faltering steps towards blind chance
Shaded corner, solitary seat
Twisted wire, ring of blue
Yearning’s symbols, varied hue
Designed to hold, preserve the view
Turn one leaf, text on text
Fan through passions, displace air
Perfect draught, my love is there
Sighs, breaths, brief despair
Reed flute timbre
Sour lip bruise
Claw feet rip
One Autumn Day
To live again that longed-for day
That came and passed too soon
Damn time that draws out hope yet steals the moment
That drags deep yearning in its wake
And parts me from my sleep
To wander past mellifluous stone, and stroll the garden’s gravel
And dance around what cannot be
Share scents and quiet confessions
Tell tales of fathers, sisters, lovers
That tested, tempted, and delighted
To share the sun, and pain and hurt, and lighten loads so few can see
This autumn day that is, and yet can never be
And close our eyes and wish the hand could hold the one that craves it
To talk of Shelley’s Plant, and Music Rooms, and Hawks, and Black Eyed Dogs
Scale stairs, scan shelves, seek books to share
Brush arms and feel the frisson there
A gift … read this one dearest
And still you doubt your beauty
And so I stand you there,
And tell you so, your back against the museum wall
And if, and if … know this my sweet
Had fate but dealt another hand
That I’d be kneeling at your feet
And so I touch your seat, look back, then drive
Missing, hurting, longing, loving
And now another autumn day
Yet that day lives in me
Fold the year back, blind upon itself
Layer darkness over shade
Shun time’s fluctuations, and cast light’s
Insinuations to the inky fissure’s depths
Damn glimmer and glisten, snuff-out glow
Draw close enfolding, perpetual night
And drive out sullied day
To die extinguished in the silvered eye
Cast clouded gaze on wasted lands,
Sketch pewter shades of fractured walls,
And dirty mustard straw,
On each fading day’s sullied page
Bend the tree’s back to blight and blast
Clothe branch and bark in death’s pale hue
Twist fibres taught and sinews shred
Glimpse bud-free fingers stab the bloodied sky
Hear cloven, bristled or rough shod foot
Tread fractured, slivered glass strewn low
And skid scant progress
On, ever on, towards Spring’s beguiling dawn
* * * * *
And yet, and yet
Pray, let me stay
Drag me no further
It suits me here
Anything? Anything at all?
What redeeming scraps endure the passage? What slick trail of affirmation survives this slithering, ponderous tragedy, dragged out over time’s bleak passing, played out across this wasted land?
This fractured life; this broken, little life; this wreck of once-sweet promise.
For wasted time, unconsummated experience, shames the living for having lived so low.
The spark un-lit, consumed in apathy, lives not to light another day.
And yet through quiet reflection we may come to gild the fractures. Grace and favour, however briefly gifted, perform the craft. Life’s bitter vicissitudes, now conjoined with veins of gold, create the whole upon which hope’s foundations lie.
These enduring staples, forged of life’s brief loves and treasures, bind the shards
And this life is no more; that life it now becomes
And when we focus on the inner light
This mind, this heart, this abandoned goal; through life’s treasured moments, becomes now whole
See no more the broken vessel, but the glinting fissures within a worthy soul
One Leaf Falling
One leaf falls, black mote upon the breath of time. In melancholy’s dark dance it drifts and shifts. I lift my eyes and trace the eddies through its sinuous descent. From below all colour’s charred upon the dull furnace of the cloud-racked sky; beneath my feet autumn’s vibrant counterpane awaits.
I hold out a hand, adjust, step forward; hope consummated in the aerial flight.
Behind I sense the tower. Firmly rooted it soars, looming in scraperboard monochrome, jackdaw-crowned and cloud swaying, tipping me off kilter, reducing me to this. I place a hand upon the stone, trace a finger along the mortar line, and invite the infusion of time and place and wonder. What hands? I think, What rough caress shaped and set?
Above, bough and leaf speak the sea’s tongue, squalls counterpoint the sighing rush. Autumn’s siren song turns me again, as one leaf returns to earth. Emblazoned in ochre-red and glistening it rests, evading, un-captured.
The loss of a wish draws down like an anchor, and roots me in loam and turf. Boot toes darkened by yesterday’s rain. Spirits dulled in exquisite suffering. Self-pity a welcome mantle of the season, wrapped sensuously, enveloping.
Torn between living wood and dead stone I stand. One, testament to perpetual re-birth; one, raised in monumental death. And so I choose my path, and take death’s hand. Dark stone on skin. Dressed block upon soft palm. Soaring aspiration dwarfing searing doubt.
Then, with cries darker than the oak’s ancient heart they fly. Jackdaw black. Swirling amidst the new-stirred leaves. The tower draws my gaze upwards towards the rough-hewn blade that ploughs the clouds, and delivers its selfless gift.
I reach out my hand and catch her; sister to the one leaf falling. Dream’s fulfilment.
Make a wish.
Note: The beautiful painting, inspired by this piece, was painted by Phil Cooper, December 2016.