The trees catch fire –
flames flicker in the wind –
gold and red and amber –
and then the nakedness
of branches, ash-grey
against an ash-white sky
and deep deep down
embers are waiting
for a single breath
to leap up fresh and new –
green flames

I’m the host at dVerse tonight – it’s always a thrill to host the quadrille! Our word tonight is “ash”.

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.

Climbing a beech tree in your parents’ garden

You will come to a place
where you can stop,
back pressed against the trunk –
a place where you can feel
your soft limbs branch and stiffen,
and the sap pulsing under
your skin, and all your thoughts
are nests and breezes,
and the taste of sunlight,
and the tree holds you here,
like a father holds a child –

Or maybe
your father hoists you up
onto his strong shoulders,
so you can peer through
the green leaves of his hair,
over the fence to where
next-door’s cat lolls in the sunshine
and the old lady jabs
at her flowerbed

and now two butterflies
spiral up towards you
and a bird swoops in
to land upon a twig

and no-one else can see
the tree-ness of you.

I’m hosting at earthweal this week, and asking you to think about how children connect with nature. Or adults, I guess. Beech is one of the Lost Words. There was a big old copper beech tree in my childhood garden – a person in its own right.

Tree buds – haibun for dVerse

Before this final flurry of winter, I was starting to imagine a faint haze of green over the hedgerows, a softening of the winterdark of the bare twigs. It won’t be long before that green is definite, and spring starts unfurling and stretching out across the landscape.

Three weeks ago we planted two new apple trees, grafts from our old Bramley. One went in behind the barn, and one on the steep part of the field. Over the last few days we’ve had winds from the Baltic, temperatures dropping down well below zero, snow, and freezing rain. It’s a hard time to be an orchardist. Robert Frost’s been sitting on my shoulder, as his namesake stalks my orchard. If those tiny buds are lost or damaged, there’ll be no crop worth speaking of this year. All I can do is wait, and hope, and trust.

I can’t protect you
You choose your time to open
Tree-bud, small but strong

A haibun for Haibun Monday at dVerse. We are asked to consider tree-buds, and the powerful metaphors they bring with them. Thank you, Victoria, for a lovely prompt. 

Rooting – for dVerse

The strength of the tree
is in its roots –
that dark mirror
that plunges into
the scented dark,
where strange creatures,
many legged,
dark carapaced,
nest among its
secret branchings.

The power of the tree
is there, in the fine,
searching threads,
all mouth,
blind nipple-suckling
water, seeking out
mineral sustenance
down there,
where the worm
glides silent
in its heavy medium,

and that depth
holds the tree,
supports the green,
dancing leaves,
the bright blossom,
the round, ripening fruit,
all nourished by
that subterranean
echo, that patient
force, stone splitting,
creeping down
into the darkest places,
finding life there.


Paul is hosting at dVerse tonight, and asking us to go underground. We are all rooted in Mother Earth, she holds the mysteries of life and death for us. 

Apple tree – for dVerse

I have drowsed all winter,
dreaming my dappled dreams,
but now the sun has touched me,
and the lengthening days
and my dreams are all of leaves,
green flames. The sap rises
fire in my veins. Down there,
deep in the darkness, my roots
seek life. I catch the sunlight
in a net, carve my dreams
from it. It’s spring, and
the primrose says “Be glad, be glad!”
and the blackbird tattoos his song
of love and hate. It’s spring,
and I dream of blossom,
pink and pale, smooth as rain,
calling the bees to dance their weaving.

Each morning, the night ripens into day,
each evening, day autumns into night,
and I watch the stars trace
their slow pathways, and the shadows
grow and shrink their way
across the grass. I dream
of leaves, and flowers, and fruit –
heavy apples bending my branches –
heavier than the thieving finch, the blackbird –
“Be afraid, be afraid,” he calls,
but I know
that in the pale heart
of each glowing apple
shines a star.
I dreamed it so.


Mish at dVerseasks us to write a poem from nature’s point of view.  It was always going to be an apple tree. Or a rook. The apple tree won…

Those dVerse poets are a dverse bunch, but very friendly and there’s a whole world of wonderful poetry over there. Check it out.