Beech in the Weald

Dwarfed by the sheer weight of wood, we stand in awe.
These are the elephant trees: great grey giants,
Graceful dignity enduring centuries.
From roots stitching thready ways
(Through chalk & stones, through soil, greensand & beechmast,
Through rock and bones searching, stretching and reaching)
There rise the rugged trunks: featureless except

Where time has cruelly carved
Marks in unprotesting bark;
Or where dark rain has chiselled
Channels & trickling runnels;
Or where lichen & fungi,
Moss & algae find their home;
Or where love has madly gouged
Sad letters, crosses, kisses,
Arrows, crazed hearts in a tree
Stalwart, too sure of its place
In the wild Weald to resist.

No, not featureless at all,
But feathered & flecked, each one
With scar tissue of its own;
Veins thrumming with green sap,
Limbs on fire with chaffinch choirs;
Leaves hazy with fine white down,
Bright-haloed with stained-glass luminosity,
Liquid light streaming from the emerald crown.

Unseen, within, timber has secret love-knots,
Circlets: whorls of golden silk swirl & fold, weave
In skeins, grains & ribbons as rare
As the filigree of fine capillaries
In these our fingers; as rare
As freckle constellations
On our fair embracing arms.

And, wondrous to comprehend:
He who calls the beech to be,
Who knows the tree’s end long before the shaft-fall,
Who loves my springing up, my branching out—yes—
He who knows each tree knows me.

© Lizzie Ballagher, 2013

Beech on the Greensand Way



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