What is the dark giant outside the window
up to? What unspoken strength
submits to the call of the pan-pipes sun,
to let a brute grasp and hand-clutch of the air
obey the early courtesies of summer,
to enter a dance of green? What tames the monster
of a first growth from chaos? Almost everywhere
with a blind shout, an exploded exclamation-mark
accepts a light and delicate means of renewal.
A flailing presence aspires, in a great up-sweep
of arms to touch the sky, still to keep balance
with its own need, within the need of all.
Who are you hiding behind the window,
scuttling here and there? If ever I saw
one of the human element cut free
and searching for its rootedness, it is you.
Your dialogue with the murmurings of the air
is all too silent, your communication
with the rich chemicals of earth is stunted,
the water and fire that sparked you into being
are drying, dying. But you are as strong as I,
the intent of life from the original seed
as powerful in you as in all creatures
that clamber to the breath of days. Who are you?
Can you read my thoughts? Is there a current,
a fermentation at a plant’s core, to catch
the idle leaves of others’ musings? Nature
who keeps a gust of secrets from our knowing
yet gives a hint or two each now and then,
may one day breathe an unexpected nearness,
and let us know that we are not alone.
You ask me who I am. Young tree, you see me
start the fourth quarter of a century
that you, I’d say, are almost through. I am old
and you are suddenly green with youth. Half-hidden
is your bark now: but I am gaunt, rough, bare.
Old poet, your words are as light as my leaves
whenever you put them on. I see you scribbling
your own renewal at your fingertips,
I see an aura of a weeping delight,
I see you take your place again and again
in a deep dance of Time . . . at once you lose it,
scrabbling sideways out of step . . . your crabbed
mask, your scales of failure, your harsh pitted
surface, dried and verminous, this I see.
Brother, I do not know you, but I know
we share a journey. Most of all at night
your mind is rich with branching and with leaves.
Poet of light outside my first-floor window,
what have you told me? Something was said – and now
a sapling youth is lit by the sky’s graces.
Something has come to me, as if from you,
in the near-year that we two have been neighbours.
The grace of living matter in a torrent
of light and change is mine if I observe
the courtesies. I pause: it is a richness
I hardly dare to sip. Something was said – and now
I too belong. For the time it is enough
to address you knowingly. I called you elm,
I call you brother now.