Daffodil, poor daffodil, Stood all alone upon the hill. Where’s the dancing crowd beside you ? Where’s your golden host ? Denied you ! Fluttering beneath the trees, There surely should be more of these…? As warmly blows the westering, Are you the scout to test the Spring ? Or last to rise, too long abed, Who’s missed his chance for getting wed ? Some blooms can stand alone and proud – But you look lonely as a cloud.
“Let’s count the pigeons !” That’s just what she said, As she pointed out a trio pecking pavement up ahead. One was grey and one was blue and one was sandy brown – “I bet we get to fifty by the other side of town !” So hand-in-hand, we kept the tally, Up the street and down the alley.
“Let’s count dandelions !” another time she said, As she pointed out a golden host within a council bed. Some were buds and some were clocks and some were full of roar – “I bet we find a hundred round behind the superstore !” So side-by-side, we kept on counting, Till we reached the rusty fountain.
“Look at all the wrigglers !” on a rainy day she said, As she pointed out the molluscs that had made us watch our tread. Some were black and some were brown and some were rusty nails – “I’ll count all the sluggies up, and you can count the snails !” So one-by-one, we kept the score, But I forget who had the more.
“Look at all the people !” on a sunny day she said, As she pointed to the crowds that loitered while the man was red. Some were old and some were young and some were inbetween – “I bet we see a dozen more before the beeps and green !” So back-to-back, against the crush, We totted up the lunchtime rush.
“Look at all the pigeons !” just the other day I said, As I pointed out a posse crowding round a crust of bread. Some were fat and some were thin…but none were worth her gaze – “Oh dad, you always say that when we meet on access days.” So that was that, no longer fun – Our number-taking days were done.
At the meeting of the streets And the corners of the road, So grows an unexpected copse No seed has ever sowed. It sprouts up overnight Like a fungus on the make – This squatter on the pavement, Brings the Winter in its wake. Its trees have all blown over, And its needles all have shed To the gutters and the breezes, Until even these have fled. Then suddenly one morning We shall find the corner bare, Save the grey of frost and concrete And the chill upon the air.
Come the Twelfth Night and the tinsel comes down – It’s time to de-decorate, if that’s a verb – The fairy lights lodged in a box in the loft, And the tree swiftly shunned to the kerb. But we always leave the poinsettia, She’s always the last to go – We purge the urge to scourge the spurge, As long as she’s on show. For maybe a little of Christmas lives on While her red and her green are in clover – But after a week, so she’ll wither as well, And that’s when the season is over.
On winter days, in wood and dene, I love to see your leaves of green, And hang a sprig, a magic shoot, And kiss beneath your poison fruit. The glory of the mistletoe, When perched aloft and laced with snow – Your roots in wood, and never loam, But on whose bough have you made home ?
This noble tree, of age and might, Now after winter’s longest night, Is verdant still, revered with awe, As hope for yet the coming thaw. So stands this tree in frozen earth, Yet evergreen, to herald birth. Its sap e’er rising through each limb, A share of which our pest will skim.
And so the shrub upon the branch Brings wine and feast to winter’s blanche. Its prey brings strength, so won’t be killed – Like rings of growth on which to build, And spreads afar across the sea, Till greater yet than e’er the tree – For now our bush has such acclaim It proudly bears a Latin name.
But lo, the mistle buds a shoot That like its host has taken root, With leaching tubers digging in, A diff’rent plant, but of its kin. This child shall conquer half the world With winter blooms of gold unfurled – And incense sweet their bouquets sow, And berries bright with stellar glow.
And yet the saps of long ago Within this parasite still flow So little changed, it simply thieves Then decks them out in diff’rent leaves. So ev’ry living thing must fight Against all predatory blight, For even here, we see the grow Of yet another mistletoe.
But this one’s hued in scarlet bright, With fur and bristles dense and white – And though as yet too small to see Alone, without its parent tree, So still its roots have bitten deep, And spreads its seeds while yet we sleep – In just one night, their airborne ride Shall leave them by each mantel-side.
Last year I bought a flaming Katy To mark a change from mistletoe – As red as holly, green as ivy, As pretty as any on show. With buds like baubles till they burst, For long after the thirty-first.
This year I still have that Katy – Bulletproof, she just goes on, Though all the year her stem has bolted, And her blooms are long long gone, She’s clearly no perpetual rose, But then, that’s just the way she grows.
She was so pretty once, my Katy, As a hothouse cultivar – But she escaped to be a tree Who’s reaching for the Christmas star She’s tall and ragged, but it’s daft – I feel I can’t deny such graft.
Last year I bought a flaming Katy Who I water faithfully, Yet she and I, we both us know She’ll never bloom again for me. Some plants we keep not just for show, I guess that’s just the way we grow.
In the Summer’s heat I bought ’em, And they barely raised a leaf – But here in the depths of Autumn As the roses come to grief, And while the first of frost is looming, With the pumpkins come and gone, So now the cyclamens are blooming Just as though the sun still shone.
“Since it was first hybridised in the 1660s, the London Plane has taken over the world.” – The Manchester Gardener
Hybrid sap, mosaic bark, Twisted bloom and swollen seed, Bright amid the sooty dark, This gnarlèd gothic breed. He sprouts so slyly, this plant in the greenery – One of the forest and part of the scenery – No felling him, this mimic of maple, primordial cousin: Hack off a limb, and this pollarding hydra will shoot out a dozen.
Spawned in the blooms of his immigrant parents, A cuckoo inherent, a mongrel ill-born. Wrought in the heart of Enlightenment steam, From a fever-soaked dream on a dew-sodden morn. With roots in the clay and his head in Orion, A vigorous scion, a devil-blest spawn, A chance aberration, a found’ry mutation, With lacewood of iron and baubles of thorn.
Invading our cities while shedding his skin, This cryptic chimera has crept his way in. And none of his caste have succumbed to senescence, as yet… Elixir of ever-youth pumps his capillary, Sweeter than gin from an alley distillery, Alchemised out of pea-soupers and coal-dust and sweat. As if he were built out of ratchets and springs, His ethic for work will be written in rings – He’s still in his galvanised prime, through the dry-times and wet.
What hath we wrought ?, and what hath we mined ?, That ought to lie buried or trampled behind – But workshops of soil are shooting out hordes of his kind. And what if we find that he just keeps on growing ?, And fruiting and sowing, till all is entwined ? Hammered and forged in the mill and pipette – Who knows how engorged this goliath may get ?