This is a poem I wrote about a month ago and as such, it was based more on what I knew was going to happen, rather than actually watching it happen.
It’s a poem about watching the year pass, I suppose. It came about because where I sit at our dining table gives me a lovely view of our garden. So if I’m working there, I might well drift off to watching what’s happening, or in the morning I’ll quite often gaze out of the window if I’m waiting for the kettle to boil or the toast to pop up. So obviously, I see a lot of change during the year.
The poem came about because I was looking at a particular tree and reminding myself that it needs to be pruned. This is a thought I have from around January every year, as this particular tree can block out quite a bit of sunlight. So every year I vow that it’s going to get cut back. And every year I fail.
The poem starts in Spring. I love Spring. It’s the season that gives that suggestion of new life, year in year out. And with this tree, it’s the season where I either admit defeat or spring – no pun intended – into life and manage to cut back a few branches before getting overwhelmed by the amount of foliage I’ll have to compost or the amount of insect life that ends up in my hair, eyes and mouth.
I find that I’ve got through Winter, with it’s freezing cold walks and runs, its snow days and its lack of daylight and that everything starts to feel better with Spring. There are the obvious signs, like the shoots of plants emerging from previously frozen soil, blossom on the trees and that sort of thing. The weather gets better too. Usually, here in England, it gets better to the point where you begin to kid yourself that we’ll get a scorching hot summer, which as we all know, is never the case! But Spring is definitely a time for optimism.
So while the poem is about change, it’s more about one of the trees in my back garden and I guess, (if we’re going to try and intellectualise things!) the relationship that we have.
Every Spring you burst into life, disappointing me with leaves that will become back ache later in the year. Your foliage, however, quickly becomes something more captivating than irritating, teeming with life and becoming a canvas to admire, like a masterpiece in some far away gallery. Your enthusiasm for life kickstarts mine and accompanied by the sun, I am far more diligent in filling up the feeders that bring birds to your branches, like day trippers to a Bank Holiday beach. It will stay this way for months, as greedy beaks plunder your hospitality and we sit, camera at the ready, awaiting a prompt for creativity. Slowly at first, your metamorphosis begins, picking up the pace as the visits of the sun decrease. And as they do, my own footsteps slow too. The birds too become a burden if it means a visit to a cold, wet garden. Like an ageing film star your beauty fades with time and I turn my attention elsewhere, knowing that before too long your leaves will demand it again. And then, as the wind howls and the rain has nothing of yours left to spatter against, I am forced out to you repeatedly in order to clean up your fallen grace. When eventually my grudging enthusiasm withers, mutters and dies, a carpet of leaf mulch will form, turning green to browns and blacks, but giving a squirrel a somewhat less than glamorous pantry. While the light hours of my days are spent elsewhere you slowly spring to life once more as the circle turns. As buds appear, I sense a missed opportunity and might even, in a frenzied quarter hour, cut away the odd branch left at arm's length or those that a daredevil few moments on a step ladder may allow me to stretch to, before nerves and a fear of falling get the better of me and I decide you look just fine. But every year you escape to grow back those curls, welcome back an abundance of life and steal the light away from late afternoons, sat in a favourite chair. And with every passing year I will concede to another defeat and sit back, relax and stare at all you bring to life.
There’s not much to add here. Not much to try and explain, as I think it’s a fairly simple and straightforward poem.
I called the poem ‘Circle’ because it’s quite a cyclical poem. It’s about the seasons; about a life cycle, I suppose. So, I arrived at ‘Circle’ because of that, but also because I begun to realise that I’m terrible at naming my poems. I’m also terrible at headlines for my articles and book reviews too. At first I called the poem ‘The Problem with Spring’ but then changed my mind when I re-read it and found that it wasn’t just about Spring after all. In my notebook it’s simply called ‘Tree’, but then I thought about trying to get people to read it and the tweet that would go out telling the world, ‘I wrote a poem about a tree’ and wondering why even less people than usual were reading! ‘Seasons Change’ was taken from a Buffalo Tom song, so I ditched that to avoid plagiarism. ‘Seasons’ was almost as bad as ‘Tree’ and ‘Cycle’ gave the entirely wrong impression, so I went with ‘Circle’. It’s still not great and I’m still not happy, but it’s done now!
The tree isn’t a particularly interesting tree. I’ve lived in the house for 23 years and I still couldn’t tell you what kind of tree it is, in fact! It’s not particularly striking or lovely. And yet, there are times, when the sun is streaming through the leaves and birds are hopping between branches, that it really is beautiful. In fact, it was probably one of these moments that led me to write the poem.
As ever, I’d love to know what people think of the poem. And the name, of course!