Suburban Spruces

de-spruced

Suburban Spruces

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.

Euphoric Euphorbia

poinsettia

Euphoric Euphorbia

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.

Mistlemass

round white fruit
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Mistlemass

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.

Kalanchoe

flaming katy 1

Kalanchoe

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.

flaming katy 2

Cyclamens

mauve in brown
Old Friends by Milos Golubovic

Cyclamens

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.

The Root of All Evil

wood street plane
Photo of the London plane tree in Wood Street in the Square Mile (taken by Katie Wignall ?)

The Root of All Evil

“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 ?

The Sisters McBloom

Photo by Elle Hughes on Pexels.com

The Sisters McBloom

The first to blossom was Daisy,
Yet still a rather homely lass –
Though pretty in a common way,
She spent all year within the grass

The next to blossom was Iris,
Bursting out in the warming Spring –
Showy, delicate, desirous,
Over quickly – just a fling.

The next to blossom was Poppy,
A gothic girl in crimson red –
A heady mix of sharp and soppy,
Fascinated by the dead.

The next to blossom was Rosie,
A redhead maid with cheeks of pink –
Nothing about her was boring or prosy,
And lasting longer than you’d think.

The next to blossom was Heather,
Just as the leaves were starting to turn –
Sturdy and tough, whatever the weather,
And hiding a heart just waiting to burn.

The last to blossom was Ivy,
Much maligned, but on the climb –
Her bauble buds were small though lively,
Coming of age at Christmastime.

Pollarding

pollard

Pollarding

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.