Careful – these words
must be coaxed.
A wild horse, shy, curious.

Nurture them, in syllable
and sound, let them
find place, punctuation,

or else, they startle,
and flee to fields, mountainside.
Their prints lost in snow and loam.


The Forager

Chanterelles, truffles, Trompe de Mort,
all packed tight in the boot of his car,
dusted with soil, sweet smelling and rich.
Evidence of his absence.

He is tired, but he marvels the load.
“Forager’s finest,” he says. True.
Those fleshy gills, golden stems,
caps like parasols rippled by wind.

A prize haul of unknown hours
hunting alone through forests,
prying leaves, digging and sleeping
amidst the milk-caps and brackets.

But there’s never a word of his labour.
I still don’t know his name. All I know
of the forager is that the pale band of skin
on his finger darkens with dirt and time.

Remember, Remember

A match flared in the dark. Then another.
Whispers of flame scurried the base
and built to a roar of full-bodied heat.

Piled were planks, chairs, tables; a pew
skewered through. Broken branches
protruded the heap like fingers reaching.

This was the stuff of life. Furniture to fill
a house, wood to build a shed, burning. Soon,
you couldn’t tell a thing from that blackened mass.

And the blaze had no preference, consumed
the lot with no regard, flushed out fireflies
that bloomed and expired into the night.

Our combined hush carried to the morning.
The cling of woodsmoke laid deep in our coats,
our hats, our skin. The ashes we’d slept in.

The Arborist

The arboretum hosts a boney crew.
Naturally, it’s autumn, winter closing,

but I’ve kept them healthy, even
the saplings. My little thoughts to tend.

Give it twenty years. I’ll have them tall,
strong, with each a bough thick and solid.

That is, if I resist this peculiar lust,
to drive a spade to the bedding, sever

the roots, tear them out, and lay
them on the lawn for all to see.

I’ll compromise: an arborist, one who
carries a blunt axe and a thirst for lumber.

Against The Odds

It was last year. The fog had carpeted fields
in its breath, swamped crowns of trees
and reduced hedgerows to hedges.

Two tractors I saw were glazed in frost.
The streams frozen. Silent. You could feel
a cold earth, hard and solid as steel.

There are times when I accept this darkness, amble
blindly through years beneath a blurred moon
warped upon a night sky without a single star.

So I picture that honeyed glow of home,
like some beacon throbbing in the fog,
a lone wink of candlelight burning against the odds.


On Broken Tooth

“Not everything has to be perfect.”
I hear each syllable, his breath on broken tooth.
Advice cemented in membrane; a tape never worn
to rewind. The phrase has been kept bold, underlined,
in periphery, easy insurance when needed.

If I could – go back to that minute, watch us from above,
that knee you took, eye to eye, how you said it slow
with a smile. An understanding laugh.
Those kind words found even on your weighted wings.
That I cannot recall; only build on schema.

But I can, and will, remember it for someone else.
Words of wisdom first uttered in their flesh.
Two days ago, I passed a mother and daughter.
Office attire. School uniform. Hand leading hand.
“We’re allowed to step on the cracks here, aren’t we?”
“Yes, darling, because there are so many.”