Treedwith acknowledgement to Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees
In breaks from the wood workshop
Where dis- and abled rubbed shoulders,
I’d stare out the back wood
With coffee and a rollie
Listening to nothing but the trees shifting,
Pine and spruce oiling air like a sharpener.
I was far from a siren from the dock.
I was far from the smoky Salford wind.
Joshing together, or so it seemed.
The wind through them like a stream
- I’d go looking for that stream,
And get laughed at every time -
Bird-call like uncorking a bottle of red
I’d dream of another night, fire-fronted.
I’ll chop you down, like an old dead tree.
I imagined them friendly enough.
So if I cut one down to size with an axe,
They’d all reach out, slowly branching,
Pumping ions for the crippled,
Bolstering with stories from the wars they’d seen,
Of boundary changes, supplying spears, bows, arrows.
But with the lengths of two smokes,
I’d feel an uncomfortableness of trees.
Always restless, hiding cuckoos two-toning,
Over and over and over,
From a distance, all swayed together.
But looking closely
Some would sway one by one.
Some would suddenly swipe another.
Some stood judging straight.
Some wouldn’t sway at all.
In truth, the beech were bullies.
The Douglas firs and spruce
Stuck with their own. Birches wrestled others
To make space for their crown.
Some pretended protection
Before lashing out in the wind.
Some were bluff neighbours, carefully tolerant, while
Their branches shot sideways glances.
Only the willow stood apart, avoiding,
Staring out across the lake.
And the oak was silent, solid (its roots ran deep),
Knowing that roots, and their root networks
Travelled far, but petered out in the end.