Outside, there is dazzle enough
to occupy the world—screens flickering,
sirens and lights, whoosh of cars
I hear echoed in waterfall and
in wind-fetched foliage above my head.
Here, no fashions, no celebrity—
take or leave ivy’s welcome mat.
Talent shows feature nest birds singing
for their supper, the only reality TV
a case of live or die. But what
odd hours I spend, deciphering scripture
of the wood. Lichens, a language
for the fingers, an aesthete’s
dapple, attest by their rich rusts and yellows
that the air is clean, while stinkhorn,
lord of the flies, simultaneously
rebukes my nose. Cat’s-cradle midges,
the snail drawing a seal across
damp moss, scattergun ants opening
towards one purpose: these are my news.
And as I drowse, the trees—tall
cold, greenly cooking the sun, patenting
leaf and branch through chemical
ways of looking—transform
to fire-sticks in a dream, to furnace mills,
to vessels sailing the lost centuries.
Civilisation’s aggrandising harness
sweeps on to the breaking limit. While at
the heel of all a man surrounded
by a city sleeps in a wood still standing.