He wanted to see the wood one last time.
So, they took him back to trees dripping and bare,
wading through dead leaves, last season’s remains.
Take your time, retreating to leave him stood
in that opening, under a gaunt-white sky,
where once, summer high, a green-leafed roof swayed.
Light, sparkling, found its way through to this same glade:
the thrown bike’s wheel flickering grasshopper song,
as he pushed aside ferns twice his height. Sensing
the sure-footed trail through deep, warm undergrowth.
Whatever day you came, something had changed,
grown or gone. This natural palimpsest.
Palimpsest. Lost in the midst, knowing your place;
immersed in the invisible. Waiting. Still.
To see what would not be seen – a sense that –
It’s no good. This time of year, they offered,
disappointed for him in what they saw.
Head back? Behind glass, dark trunked reflections
run off windows into a closing sky,
past high wind-whispering hedges to stark street lights.
Home. Cocooned. Words half-heard. Yet something remains.
Back there, isolated dark patches spread
like spilt ink. The waking night, the sleeping day.
Seasons will return; scattered lives restored.
Always the same, yet nothing as before.
Smoothing flat a large sheet we plan to trace
our world, annotating and illustrating,
scrunching up, fraying edges, and ageing
in stewed tea before sanding the surface to scratch
a lost map of treasures. Beginning with home
we plot outwards, realising your domain:
the sweet shop, park, Brownies, friends’ houses, as far
as the eye – school nudging the paper’s edge.
A life contained. Here we rolled you to sleep
beside walls you’d soon be held on calling out to lambs;
here you first triked, biked, sledged, tumbled and fell.
Your cries echoing across this range. That now,
you populate with trees in leaf, daisies, snowdrops,
blackberries, lambs, and dogs off lead: your days
all seasons in one. Where we follow paths lain
continuously, each walking our own.
Criss-crossing dashed lines, other days, other lives,
past molehills, grass-flattened trails. Above us,
swifts swerve by where high winds and summer scents
cross this hand-poised space, each leaving some impression,
however fleeting, as when you’re here, but not.
The distant playtimes carrying over fields
to where we’d stand unseen, upwind, awhile,
watching the deer return home, your hand in mine,
the bats flying knowingly about our heads.
Bounding forward, you make your way, out of frame
chasing something, only you will find.
Leaving me trailing – until I catch
you, waiting, expertly tightrope walking –
arms out – balancing on the cattle-grid.
The Fallen Tree
The winds had returned by the time
I finally got around to finding the spot
they had all been talking about.
On another day, it could have been one of any
silenced contender littering the muddy ridge.
But when I saw it, I knew. Fallen back
from the top bank onto the sloping field –
appearing as if mid-fall – its weight
taken by the land. Bushels flailing, grasping air,
writhing in the wind, I half-circled
sizing its shapeless mass spread out
like a grounded hot-air balloon.
The nosing dog backed off
as it fanned alive once more.
Then ceased to stillness. Its fluttered feathers fell,
darkened. Had those across the water heard
its leafy collapse, its unseasonal crash?
Bending down to stroke the once sunned,
slipped crown that stood high
and anonymous among the lined crowd,
had I realised before what lives lived
in such an abundance of leaves –
almost stepping on the still-attached acorns
resting at my feet.
The Hare on the Hill
The grass is that bit longer.
It hides the hare on the hill
That I see when I pass at this time of day.
But I know that it’s watching me, still.
Learn more about Peter on our Contributor’s Page.