Poem: Looking up at an oak

Posted by RDN under RDN's poems on 19 July 2017

Looking up at an oak
15 July 2017

I lie down.

An arching root
barges the small of my back;
my neck is cricked,
and my sneakers scuff old leaves,
dry as unfurled cigar.

I crane back
and bring
my vari-focus lenses
to bear,
looking skywards –
almost in comfort –
through
five hundred years of oak.

The wood-edge tree
ascends,
burly,
multiple,
and spreading
by a muscular inclination
to hunt light
anywhere,
and specially above.

Everything else must
take its chance:
its own siblings,
offspring,
and any other –
lesser – beings.

The dogs snuffle
the grasses
by my head,
perhaps discerning
how long-gone
are the scents of rabbit,
badger,
or other dogs.

I let go
of purposes,
as one taking the phone
off the hook;
or pretending
to be a sniper,
zoning-out;
or chilling
for a good
blood pressure
reading.

The underside of a forked branch
presents crumpled bark,
like the glamorous wattle
in older women.

There, in another spot,
the bark seems to run in
tangled river-streams;
or better still,
like
vine-tangles,
the way Romanesque
carvers
liked to pattern
the capitals atop the pilasters
of monasteries.

My Chiltern
tree is just doing its thing,
and I am doing mine,
as I idly conjecture
metaphors and simulacra.

And maybe those carvers
were really and merely
carving from memory
or a plein air sketch
of soft-creased skin
or gnarled creepers
imagined on distant relatives
and predecessors
in Spain or France
of this great mute
hunk of life
above my head.

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