—Green Man Visuals Courtesy
The story of this sycamore,
as ancient lore, a tree of life,
whose squirrels gather winter store,
if where forgotten, sapling grows.
The canopy, a hiding place,
nuthatches headfirst, make their mark
uncurling bark, find canapés,
beak garibaldi, biscuit bugs.
The green man, universal sign,
a deity, a jack of all—
who else is hidden by the climb,
horizon scan from vantage point,
to see above the crowd below?
There is a man, against the grain,
who rudely asks himself to lunch;
it seems he shakes the fruit from tree.
I love sheen, floribunda leaves,
bright red-green cushion, perfume, bloom,
but gardener forked, spread dung beneath,
under the rosebush, scattered muck.
When dust seems layered everywhere
and all needs polish, drawing out,
I start, patina, table top,
to reach the waxing moon at last.
So every grey, sad tattered thing,
needs riches drawn—from horse or bee—
that donkey outlaw, label worn,
cut palm fronds, coronation ride.
This fleshy husk needs burnish too,
obese fat folds that ripple still,
just as in cradle cot, pink buff,
a foot, note gloss of baby oil.
And there’s the rub—rejected, old,
as lamp from which the Jinn arose—
for truth is not glazed, varnished dream,
but where rejected meets our need.
My class mates, having flown the nest,
each nurtured as their type,
a brood once nestled underneath
transfused with feathered milk.
There are a few cuckoos,
transplanted other sets,
orphaned, unwanted, given up,
ruff moniker round neck.
Some born myth of kingfishers,
from rafts of raging seas,
their halcyon remembered,
perch statues flown in flash.
One faithful is of woodpecker—
claims rebirth through the tree,
while twins borne by buzzard,
seek another sort of prey.
Top scorer is the owlet,
found wisdom working nights,
while plodders are the waders,
the curlew, redshank, snipe.
My own would be pelican,
breast-stabbing vein release;
I speak not of self-harming,
She daily pours her life-blood,
the cords of love which bind,
as cordial she pulses,
to grant her son his rites.
Of childhood, rapeseed, paler shade,
with richer stalks in sunflower rows,
both cloth of gold and mellow field,
amber flags in boggy moss where
starred before marsh marigolds.
We read the heavens on our backs—
traced cotton wool fluff float above,
then rambled, soft clouds underfoot,
shared memories of yellow, blue—
though wore the ghosts of borrowed shoes.
And then we learnt the County Code,
still shut the five bars as before,
closed, tossing stones at old tin cans;
caught smoky buses, rural roads,
deposited near railway halt.
And soon the city, crowds, exhaust—
all that for year in fortnight packed,
the trunk to loft where it got stuck
forever, as the world had changed—
no more swallows or amazons.
I carried a Pisa pile
towards the door desk, greyish tinge.
The bright street frontage, poster glow
felt-tip scrawl announced, not Alexandria,
but fire damaged stock for sale.
High School me, taken self to town,
found this people-free paradise;
miser pocket-money in pig-skin purse
and upstairs warehouse, rickets stairs.
Cubic capacity, volume of books,
as if building razed, scarred library,
leaving untidy, uneven
brick foundation course which might
totter, crumble, bravely stand,
though interleaved mortar might fall about.
Column or torus, cheapest heaps,
towers, footstools, pilae stacks,
with floor before another plinth,
classic publishers fading pink,
a hypocaust for everyman,
Dutton, Dent and Routledge,
English bricks in global walls.
Picking through rough rubble site,
bombsite pages still bound, intact,
I sifted authors, faint pencil fly
just a dime, though ‘just’ is mine.
Juvenile choices from printer’s block tray,
lines with words, incunabulae
of literature, devoured by hungry,
on every page of history,
appetite never satisfied.
Short boy, still teen, conservative in style,
probably in jacket, tie,
like tight-rope walker
stretched balance reaching towards cash register.
I waited while she totted total shillings spent.
Seeing selection for my shelves,
she posed was I a teaching man?
Now feel six feet tall
I chuckled, denied,
but volumes carried, swelled with pride,
a glow recalling embers laid
around these for basement prices paid.
If she could read those light lead-marks,
eye-sight good in that dinge site,
more confident my bus stop stride.
Though fifty on, two yards from here,
those tomes look grand; yet still unread.
My mind is like my Internet Browser: 19 tabs open, 3 of them frozen and I have no idea where the music is coming from!
—Around Here Magazine, Spring, 2022
More wry humor and subtle insights from Stephen Kingsnorth today, and our thanks to him for cyber-writing to us all the way from Wales. For more about the Green Man, see www.ancientwisdomonline.com/blog/category/green-man/. Every gardener should have a Greenman. Actually, you probably do—you just don’t know it.
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