Last Autumn, all your leaves came down –
Just like they must each year.
But seeing them when dead and brown,
And unlike all the rest in town,
Is just too late, I fear.
I should have seen them all when green !
But now I wondered – what tree had we here ?

Big, they were, the largest, broadest leaves
In all this urban wood
And finger-lobed, for holding-up the eaves,
And poking now from gutter-sleeves
About the neighbourhood.
My thought was fig, with leaves that big,
Yet far too gropey to do Eve much good.

But I, alas, might never even know,
For once your leaves were shed –
The shears came out and brought you low,
As all your branches had to go
And left your trunk for dead.
No tree could sleep with cuts so deep –
You surely won’t be rising out of bed…

April was well underway before
Your twigs began to sprout.
And then, such tiny hands they bore,
As ev’ry day a couple more
To prove you yet were stout.
At this rate Fall would claim them all
Ere half the sun-grab hands were even out !

But then I looked a little lower,
Where some suckers crowd the roots –
While your wounds may heal the slower,
Round your foot you’re still a grower
Shooting out a dozen shoots.
Succour feeders, weed succeeders,
Sucking sunshine into fruits.

May saw plenty spindly upper twigs –
A hedgehog on each bough,
To carry leaves, so close, so big,
As if they’d snap right off the rig,
But seemed to cling on anyhow.
As June grew late, they put on weight
As fleshy forearms now.

By summer, something stirred in me,
A memory about the bumps
That swell no larger than a pea –
They’re really next’s year’s fruits-to-be.
But here, of course, there were no lumps –
For what life stirred was secateured
Down to your barest stumps.

So will I have to wait another year
To see your fruits in Fall ?
I wonder if I’ll still be here…
You will, of course, that much is clear –
You’re bursting branches big and small.
Unless your twigs are lacking figs
Because you never were a fig at all…

Harvest Song

nature sky field summer
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com


Harvest Song

Reapers sweep the scythe
And sheafers bush the sheaf –
Gathering the harvest,
Gathering the grain –
Threshers thresh the flail
To tear the seed from leaf –
Gathering the harvest,
Holding off the rain –

Winnow-women winnow,
And siever-maidens sieve,
Prizing out the pearls
That the golden ears give –
For to the corn we’re born,
And by the wheat we live.
Bringing home the harvest down the lane.

Once it took a village,
And ev’ry boy to spare –
Gathering the harvest,
Stooked and ricked and mown –

Now it takes machines,
With no use for man or mare –
Gathering the harvest,
Gathered to the bone –

Children of the corn
And cottage-kitchen wives
Are spared the broken backs
And spared the broken lives,
With Summers never shorn
By the sweeping Reaper’s scythes –
So bring us home the harvest on your own.




all that's missing is a cactus



If you want a Russian Thistle,
All you have to do is whistle –
In they tumble on the breeze.
An 1800s stowaway,
A foreign sprout who’s here to stay
Blowing ever West with ease.
Not a thistle, but as hairy,
From the steppes to claim the prairie,
Infiltrating cowboy lore.
Full of thorns and full of seeds,
These drifting immigrants are weeds
Just made to be a metaphor.



Sun Serfs

photo of sunflower
Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com


Sun Serfs

Sunflowers are conformists –
Growing equally tall,
Facing the same direction –
See one, see them all…
Until a shoot is pampered,
And displayed against a wall.

The clones out in the fields
They all droop their heads as one,
But the show-offs in the garden
They are staring at the sun.
But which will yield us seeds and oil
Once the reaping’s done ?



The Other June



The Other June

June is full of unexpected flowers –
We shouldn’t be surprised at such,
We know these buds exist in theory,
But we never think of them that much.
I don’t mean roses or hydrangeas,
Where the blooms are solely why they’re bought –
But rather in the offhand places
Where the flowers are an afterthought –
The lively sprays of privet blossom, say,
Or potato’s multi-coloured spawn,
Or dead-nettles with snakeheads raised,
And teasing frills of clover on the lawn.
For ev’ry showy thug like bindweed,
There’s small-and-many thyme and poison ivy –
Where oxeyes lord it over the daisies,
The plantain spikes are defiantly lively.
A shock of yellow in the verges,
Wastelands looking oddly brisk and bright,
And brambles showing their softer side,
While shy little sundews and chickweeds fleck with white.
They don’t do it for us of course,
These unassuming emissaries –
And we’ll forget, then be surprised again
By the Autumn’s unexpected berries.



One Plant’s Meat is Another Man’s Garden

more common than you'd think
Hemlock, as shown in Medizinal-Pflanzen (Medicinal Plants) by Franz Köhler


One Plant’s Meat is Another Man’s Garden

Hemlock won’t kill us,
Despite all its poison,
(And not for the warnings that textbooks all parrot.)
For why would we eat it, right there in the hedgerow ?
It doesn’t look that much like parsley or carrot.

Since when do we sample the leaves and the berries
Of any old weed in the wild ?  How bizarre !
We buy all our veg from the market and grocer,
Who hopefully know what the diff’rences are.

And meanwhile we cherish the monkshood and foxglove,
And nurture their weapons without any fuss.
But hey, there’s no danger admiring their flowers,
For light cannot carry their toxins to us.

Buttercups, daffodils, rosemary, poppies,
And holly and ivy, and conkers and yew.
We’re much more at risk from a field of grain –
From the carbs that we bake, or the booze that we brew.

Animals know well to leave them alone,
Whether ragwort to nightshade – just ask any herder.
And humans will likewise spit bitterness out –
So we won’t die of hemlock…unless it is murder !



Transatlantic Cable 9 – Gutta-Percha

Palaquium gutta by Franz Köhler


Transatlantic Cable 9 – Gutta-Percha

Forests gone
Trees no more
From Formosa down to Singapore
They hacked them down
Shore to shore
Felled them for the precious sap they bore

Send a message
Round the globe
To spare the trees that let your message probe
Send a message
In good faith
To spare the trees that keep your message safe
Send a message
To the top
Or else some day all messages must

Perished rubber
Turns to brittle
Gutta-percha won’t degrade a little
Latex stretches
So does leather
Gutta-percha keeps its form forever

Send a message
Through the gloam
To spare the trees that bring your message home
Send a message
Dit by dah
To spare the trees that speed your message far
Send a message
Spare the crop
Or else some day all messages must



An English Country Garden

brown wooden house beside green trees during daytime
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

An English Country Garden

New to the village then, hey ?
Ah, the cottage of old man Beck.
All that garden in the way !
Well, good luck keeping that in check…

Tell you what, let’s take a gander,
Milk and two spoons, lovely, cheers.
Of course, it used to be much grander –
But gone to seed for donkey’s years.

These flowers like potatoes…
Nightshade ?  No, it’s bittersweet.
Oh, don’t look so relieved mate –
Those are just as deadly if you eat.

What’s that, you hope to keep some bees ?
I really wouldn’t, were I you –
Cos when they pollinate all these,
It turns their honey deadly too !

Now here’s a fine old holly tree,
Though he could do with quite a trim.
Yes, he’s a he – a male, you see,
You’ll get no berries out of him !

Your buddleia is running free,
In crumbled mortar, rotten sills,
And, yes, between your slates, I see.
Pretty flowers, massive bills !

And stonecrop on your gable-end –
Hanging mid-air, what a champ !
But best to hoick it out, my friend,
For room for roots is room for damp.

I see you’ve last year’s veg galore,
All overgrown and moulted.
Too late to shut the greenhouse door,
Your cabbages have bolted.

Your bindweed bullies ev’rywhere,
Insinuating strangling strands
While its triumphal trumpets blare –
A cheeky chap with wand’ring hands.

A shame about the knotweed, though,
And ragwort too !  And bracken fronds,
And ivy, nettles, thorny sloe,
And duckweed choking off the ponds.

This hemlock – best not touch it, natch –
All snowy-flowered, poison-flecked.
Much like your giant hogweed patch
With last year’s corpses still erect.

Your wild tobacco’s quite a hit,
And morphine poppies look a treat –
Oh don’t sweat guv, they’re quite legit –
Though weed-out all your weed, toot-sweet !

And are those shrooms I see in spawn
Between the death caps ’neath the trees ?
And fairy rings across your lawn,
And stinkhorns flavouring the breeze.

But say, your dandelions roar !
A joy, a golden-yellow sea,
And ev’ry year, there’s more and more –
Old Beck would brew the leaves for tea…

Speaking of which, is there more in the pot ?
Well, can’t stand jawing round here all day.
I’d say you’ve got one hell of a plot,
To keep you busy for many a May.



Trees in Threes

flight landscape nature sky
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Trees in Threes

Alda Oldman the alderman
(Or Alda the Elder, as she is called),
Once planted an alder (or was it an elder ?)
That stands so bold (or stands so bald ?)

Linda Limey loves her lime tree –
Maybe citrus, maybe not,
But looks sublime in Summertime
When limelit in its limestone pot.

Poplar black and willow white,
I think that I have got that right –
But easy to confuse them, each,
Like copper birch and silver beech.


cherry eggs



A Blackthorn Easter falls in March,
When Easter seems to come too soon –
But when it’s April, then we see
An Appleblossom Easter bloom –
And when it’s late, we celebrate
A Cherry Easter at its boom –
When leafless boughs are full of flowers,
Sprung from out of Winter’s tomb.