The ash trees

The ash are late this year –
bundles of sticks, rattling up
into the blue sky. We search
for feathery tufts. Sometimes
we see them, sometimes


I’ve never known the ash so late,
dark lines scraped across
a billowing, pillowing world of green.

They’re dying. I hadn’t thought
that this would come so quickly –
imagined a slow drift of ghosts
across the landscape –
when I thought of it at all –
not these monuments, scattered,
solid, sharp-edged. No, not this
memento mori, these bone branches
shouting “look at me, look at me”.

Nature will fill in the gaps, and
we’ll forget the avenue of chestnut trees,
the stand of larch, the ash, the ash, the ash,
the tree that holds the world,
the tree where gods hang, waiting for wisdom.

for Brendan at earthweal. It’s full on spring here, getting ready for summer, and the ash trees are still not out. It’s very strange. Ash die-back is here, stalking our copses, and I can’t help feeling that the landscape is undergoing a radical change. It’s a small thing, and yet, it’s a big thing. The canary in the mineshaft, maybe? Ash trees are a defining part of our Devon landscape. I can list a dozen ash placenames off the top of my head.

4 thoughts on “The ash trees

  1. It’s so sad, Sarah. To lose that part of the landscape and ecosystem.
    Apparently ash trees here are being wiped out by a type of beetle called an emerald ash borer.
    Chestnut trees used to be everywhere–every single town in the area–and Philadelphia–has a Chestnut Street or Avenue, and they were all killed off in the early 20th century by a disease.I think the roots are still there, but the trees can’t grow.


  2. “…where gods hang, waiting for wisdom.” I love that. Here, we are noting silence where bees should be buzzing. No bees. Not good.


  3. Sorry so slow and late here, ash are such primal trees in the mythic British landscape, third lunar month, wood of spear, of points put straight, rooting deep into the Earth. A soul ghosts in those diseased trees. Such magnitude is terrible to witness, but our time is not neat. Thanks again Sarah – b


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