In the cupboard, a parchment tightly rolled (I suppose
So no skeletons can embarrass us by dropping out)
The family tree takes up less space
Than any sapling apple shoot in garden ground.
Felled, unscrolled across the tabletop, it is a thing
Of mighty girth, of substance & of centuries,
Gravid in age with flower & fruit:
Many-sprayed with lithe & leafy children.
Now & then a bough is scarred, is severed
By the roaring wind of downfall, wrack & havoc;
And, for a while, the ancestry stands rooted, maintains
A season of wintry mourning when all limbs hang slack.
Sometimes, though, new sprigs sprout out of cross-grained bark,
Joined at the hip to the spreading tree
Yet drawn by tendrils of morning summer light
To the ribs & rings & wishbones of others in the greenwood.
Often new stocks are grafted in:
One wedding ring weaves round another;
The rough-cast band of bark grows out;
Somehow, accommodation fit is found
(Even in a shabby, time-worn trunk)
For honeyed yellow rising sap;
For buds & sprigs & sparrows;
For golden bees & roseate apples.
True: in spite of bungled pollination & broken branches,
In all this slipshod history, in twists of twigs
Created by the wheeling rings of sun’s white heat,
This tree stays faithful to its healing gardener:
It bears—it wears—one more encircling wedding ring
Concentric round another, year on year
Ascending on ladders of grace & hope
To heaven’s high, high orchard.
© Lizzie Ballagher