Something to support music, a stave
to place the pitch of a note, or staff
usually wooden, as song out of a wood.
Here hazel, with a slight bend in its sound
where years grew into a tree, foot shod
with metal ferrule, lanyard threaded to rest
wrist for poise uphill, like a skier's stroke.
Top rounded to a chestnut burnish for the heel
of hand to steady as you come downhill.
I take it for first walk up a sunken track
carter and rover would have known as a main road.
Something of an introduction, an apprentice wood
meeting the oak that's stood five hundred years,
the spilt beech that stands on, the hazel shaft
picking its way like axe head silvering kindling.
Comfort over churned and tractored ground, the change
from discipline of rod and staff, no sentence
in ease of trees, centuries of symphonies:
or staff as in the pub where we order food,
each bearing a bowl of full moon in rainwater.
Visiting the Trees
Sometimes he'd drive without a shopping list
just to see trees, rare leafing on that island,
past first loch's reach of sky, down single tracks
to the pour and swoop of the main road lead with light.
Two stags barely bothered to watch him through
tapestries of showers. On the driver's side
elastic moorland was as much water as ground,
sky rolled up like a blind, then, gathering round,
what passed for suburbs; labelled streets, numbers, lamps.
Woods' suddenness, always; strange shelter after distance,
green air above tarmac, studied Victorian planting;
that same Englishness as colony, philanthropy,
enclosing the mock castle, conditioning rock and harbour
to a prospect. Then, list: sycamore, ash, beech, oak;
marmalade, bacon, teabags, bread from Morag's.
Notebooks, biros, library, wedding tweed.
He stayed among trees until first shops blinked open,
looking up to their crowns, hearing Gaelic song for leaves
after usual tides' discussion, and winds' insistence.
He sensed their gradual shadows and historic damp,
birch paper texture, cross-hatched bark of ash,
stories they held, still, of the Englishman
noted in partial history in tourist pamphlets,
with careful phrasing about 'commercial problems'.
He added: 'Clan plaid for reception' and 'order roses,
check ferries, malt, the gift of Harris chessmen.
Collect the peats for when the wood runs out'.