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

nothing.

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.

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.