Ash Die-back

Yggdrasil is dying.
I’ve seen it – 
branches bare as arms
reaching towards the sky. 

Trees scream silently,
carrying the heavens
in their branches, 
weaving the world
with their roots –

what happens now?
Yggdrasil fumbles, falls -
worlds drift away -
the gods slip into darkness -
frost and fire and flood -

and where will we find wisdom
now Yggdrasil is dying?
Whose arms will we hang in?
Only emptiness. 

Brendan at earthweal invites us to write about trees. Here in Devon, our ash trees are dying. They are such a massive, ancient part of our landscape – the countryside round here is going to look very different in 5, 10 years’ time. I’ve been part of a project called the Ode to the Ash Tree Project. As an extra bonus, here’s a video of Katy Lee performing my poem Devon Ash. You CAN watch the video – just click where it says Watch on Vimeo.


14 thoughts on “Ash Die-back

  1. We wrote in a similar vein, Sarah. Those arms reaching up, and the silent screams are so powerful an image……….a poem that hits the heart. Just wonderful.


  2. Wow. Your poem really hit home for me. I didn’t know about the ash dieback in your part of the world. I have an enormous old North American Green Ash tree in the garden of my rental house. I’ve been here three years now and seen the tree go through some radical changes. Early this year it was given a brutal prune because one of the neighbours complained about overhanging branches. It’s been dormant all winter but is now showing signs of new growth with the spring.

    Weirdly Yggdrasil lives down under in Australia (at least one representative of the symbol anyway).


  3. the new words fail us, so we turn to the old stories to sustain us. or at least, explain to us, how we fail.

    I enjoyed the reading of your other poem, as well ~


  4. Hi Sarah, great to see you here, sorry it’s on such a grieving note. Human transport has spread invasive species and pathogens into virgin boreal forests who have no immunity — and unlike the COVID plague, they just have to stand there and take it. There were billions of chestnut trees in the eastern US a century ago, almost none remain … oak wilt, Dutch palm, apple scab, cedar rust, Yggdrasil is waning in from every edge from a blight made even worse by drought and fire (150 million trees in California, the Siberian taiga a ghost of smoke, the Amazon looking like the withered lungs of an intubated COVID patient). And with her goes the sweet air. A lonely landscape in Devon, for sure — a wisdom forever lost. Thanks for widening the canopy of that grief. – Brendan


  5. I can feel the angst of the ailing trees. A few years ago the maples had a disease instead of changing color in falls brilliance the leaves became spotted and died. It was worrisome but, they were able to recover.


  6. Our ash trees in the states are dying, but it’s due to emerald ash borer, an invasive species. When I bought my house nine years ago, an ash tree stood in my yard, near death. The bark has since fallen off, and it’s now a sixty foot shaft scored by the sub-bark tunnels of those beetles.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s