For Marina Carr
‘Have you no pity then?
Once we were men
we are stumps of wood’
—Dante (translated by Robert Pinsky)
Last year a tree punched five holes
In the roof, smashed through
Windows, a glasshouse, the porch.
Its twin at the gate stood too long
Old and sickening, half alien
Half thundercloud. Now it is down.
A chainsaw juggling acrobat
Swung up through the branches
And cut it to a gibbet
That he felled with the precision
Of a rocket launch. The floor
Shook. That night stars sprang
Like daisies where the great beech
Had been. The world was all dazzle
And my breath, held for too long
Flowed again. A sharp grief
Surprised me next morning
To see life ended with the limbs hacked off.
Its time was over. There will be
Other trees, slim and limber, birch
Silver and light-friendly.
A tree fallen is not the same
As a tree felled. What am I to make of it
With its imperial scansion?
Who knows what the tree wants—a happy death?
The Welsh say the first tablets were timber
The woods’ hierarchy etched on beech.
I tell myself it had no purchase here
In the thin soil, blasted by gales
Roots loosed and rotted, a nightmare
Where harpies nested and snapped twigs bled.
Now it is timber, rhymed, end-stopped,
Ready to be transformed
Into something simple, a desk or breakfast bar.
A bad dream dragged into daylight
And hewn into a table and chairs.