That old tree on the south side of the square is down. In the undergrowth
between the path and railings, where hundreds of daffodils will soon open,
branches and trunk lie cut in lengths: thinner billets of branches, and
from the base of the trunk, disks as thick as elephant feet, each
cut surface raw and pale, and the ground-cover ivy is smeared with
sandy desert-orange-coloured wood-chips and sawdust.
Three children, six or seven years old, two girls and a boy, race
through the shrubs at the side of the path, where the trunk of a tall tree
lies on its side, and the branches, trimmed, lie next to it.
The boy bends to grab one, then calls out:
“Don`t forget that whoever has the stick is the commander!”
Inside a yellow laburnum tent
which the rain barely penetrates,
behind a screen of white lilac,
I want to hide.
Queen Anne`s lace and borage
tangle in the foliage
of the lower branches
showering gold and silver petals.
Fallen chestnut blossom
on the pebbled path has
the reddish colour of raw meat
or scabs on schoolboys` knees.
Stooping, I see the fresh
flowers rest on yesterday`s petals:
mulching into the gravel.
Almost every bud and frill
of tiny crumpled leaves
crimson and iridescent green
shows the carnal flush of new life:
Artichokes with bristling purple thistle flowers
like jaunty cockades on Highlanders` bonnets,
as tall as in my vegetable garden; here
in the square stand formal as gates of wrought-iron.
The square today is full of mothers and children
running and laughing and playing badminton.
Other mothers sitting on wooden benches
talk into their mobile phones and watch the tennis.
A few mothers walk briskly, as if pulled along
the damp gravel paths by their dogs. Almost no one
but me, with anachronistic pencil and notebook,
unnoticed, alone – without a child or a dog or a phone.
One September morning
under the willow tree`s green-tasselled tent
that straddled dripping bushes and puddled paths
we sheltered from an equinoctial storm
dragging heaps of yellow leaves across the grass,
then in the empty playground
saw abandoned toys – trucks, buckets and spades,
their primary colours glistening from the sandpit,
jaunty wooden snails to ride like magic horses
and two square swings like small security cages.
The slick shine of rain
makes the metal slide the bed of a river.
Only the roundabout, its bright red struts and
central hub a science-fiction spaceship, hints
that above the cloud stretches endless blue sky.