Lined

The parallel profiles
of the fifty to sixty linden trees
are bitten-thin by the wind
at this time of year

but their ever-tall alignment
of bared trunks
is still my local fixture

There – spaced by landed
strides off an owner’s count –
along this now hemmed-in route –

once a sublime wide avenue
to a grand house –
ridden up forty-ish years earlier
by a princess –
Sporting Life by her side

Now it is the route to a
sprawled estate
of modern servants
who push their buggies
and pull their dogs
along the uneven surface –

a shaded path
for the good half of the year –
for the other bared months
it is fifty to sixty sundial
shadows – if there is sun –

I haven’t counted the trees –
each a timer set by a lime
in the low winter light

The Lungs of God

I stand under this vault
of our common church –
off-centre on this sea-girt isle

Our stone tradition of roofing
is more to do with fools’ fires
than Heaven’s weight

Here the light is insipid –
no tang of incense
only the blue miasma
off flume emissions

My legs tire – but find no pew –
no tuffet to take me
to the path’s cathartic
kneel-down call

No Room

Through this sludge-week
before your lit Yuletide –
this path of slopped rain
sucks hard on my boots

as I traipse in my circles
of the dog-dug conditions –
through which I’m set fast
by your barked-out orders –

Only return home
with a well-cut one –
which will not then tip –
not ’til the twelfth day –

Such held superstitions –
erected by lost Popes –
were claims on short nights
over our pagan ways –

I’d rather keep cold gods
from the warm living room –
I hold no love
for your desiccated tree

This Parish

We stick to the leaf-kicked route –
a parting of the dry sea of leaves
cleared by dog-following boots –

We tack down its meandered drop
to the time-softened abyss –
plugged not by God – but drains –

where a watercourse once hollowed
the hillside into this shallow dean –
before the slugs of tarmac upstream –

Here the irregular plots of silver birches
ignore the fallen old lady in lime green –
this is the parish of ineffectual giants –

these natives – a copse within the woods –
are a finger-daubed fearful tribe in white –
chary – waiting – as if standing ready –

listening for the infected invaders
from other places – for intruders
who will bring other such followers

to spread the canker and pestilence –
which was not the way things changed –
not until we changed the weather

Above the Ouse

Here are the random spillages
of sorrel-glazed sweet chestnuts –
an overnight downed bounty
which has settled on the layers
of leaves and paths underneath

The splayed-open spiky cupules
offer – like unclipped purses –
their copper-only change –
I finger out those fattened nuts
which were once so desired
to fill the bowls of soldiers –

As I gather – not easy work for me –
the loosened crop on my route –
they mass to make my pockets
weigh as if full of dreadful stones –
but these will not pull me under