I was taught to spot the imperfect years
by measuring, with eye and finger
the varied distances, the thicknesses
of those concentric, almost-whirled,
bark-marked lines in the bared-ankles
of cut trunks: Dendrochronology.
Counting back, to before I was born,
my smooth fingers touched the years,
and Dad recalled a distant summer
without enough rain (‘see the thin ring’),
when he felled a malicious child,
dragging him by the handy straps
of handed-down dungarees
through a dusty field of soft cow pats,
that bully face down, Dad ploughed
shit down his bib: he marked him.
At the bottom of Lime Tree Avenue
a bared examination of that past
with the removal of another tree,
rotten, untrusted to be above us,
all that is left is the raw-sawn stump,
of over a hundred imperfect years,
and I cannot touch the ring he was in,
as my finger is now too thick and rough.