The Returning Sky
Blocked, the drain-flood lake out front
is like a dirty moat now.
Workmen come sucking-up sodden, black leaf-fall;
the surface water seeps away
and there we are, before this house,
with a fresh access of sky.
The neighbour fir trees, opposite,
succumbed to saws in daylight
and that’s what gives us so much blue
to populate with relatives,
acquaintances or others’ loved ones,
last things, the latest cry …
This season too has done its bit;
gone, our deciduous screens.
Bare branch-shadows on a white house wall
make more intricate vein-work,
and they’re added to the flooded gutters’
leaves painted-up with sky.
Now our lately dead are in the air.
An overcast grey-scale dusk’s
shot through with thin red cloud streaks;
and, look, they’re everywhere
in privet hedges, like a private grief
for the targeted to die.
You incorporate them, part and whole –
synapse, nerve-end, heart brimful,
as any body knows:
it’s like death were a white van driver
who had splashed us differently,
indifferently going by.
Shadows extend on pine-needle beds,
across the undergrowth ferns –
as if long life’s decrepitudes
had stalked us through the woods.
A beech tree trunk bore scars of old loves.
You saw sun patches in the high leaves
and felt birch-bark striations.
It was like standing by a family tree
to get back with your sense of touch
things mislaid down the years.
I remembered Linnaean classifications,
woodnotes you were straining to hear
or words both our parents said
and caught us unawares …
The coppice paths were seed-strewn then.
A bird’s nest on an upper bough
drew eyes from family, still unforgiven;
but none of that mattered now.