November, the woods

This is the second draft of a poem that I initially composed a couple of weekends ago. I had visited a huge tythe barn over the summer and taken a walk up to some woodland, owned by the National Trust. I visited again, with my wife, and felt inspired to put some thoughts down on paper ; I don’t give or make enough time for this type of thing, yet writing is where I feel at my most excited, most calm and happiest. So, here it is – I don’t go for rhyming so much, more a controlled outpouring. My love for poetry of all shapes and sizes has been reinvigorated through teaching it. Having time to reflect, a little, like this, is precious indeed.

Days start shortening, gathering in their mud-speckled garments,

casting coy glances back over life’s ledger, surrounding the diminishing

hours with rough armaments against the silent, insistent creep of

December, its presence hastening the onset of Winter’s chill.

Yet, for now, focusing on breath, we experience the

fall, a soft descent of leaves, tinged deep, resonant brown,

softly shocking orange, let loose like tendrils from some

half-viewed, almost forgotten sun setting : all intermingled

casually with dark, madly misplaced, eager child footprints,

the indents of broken-off branches, spindly arms and fingers.

And yet, more leaves, yielding pancakes, still, falling

almost ineffable, intermittent, like innumerable snowflakes

brought too early into being – some muted celebration, a smile,

a wink.

All are ready for renewal, a relinquishing

of Summer’s languorous licentiousness, chances to grasp at the

essence of growth pausing, then flowing into delicious decay;

decay, a joyous decay, browner, full of hidden depths, interrupted by

spurts of multilingual funghi – the undulating, unerring collectors of

submissive tree trunks, vessels for endless, filamented reproduction:

sustenance, before allowing fulfilment and a return to earth.

Some are spongy, some tilting, some slightly

lop-sided, curling, unfurling and cuddling at the periphery,

eager to and never in fear of becoming…unconquerable. They remain

in charge; now is the moment, dominating with subtle inflections, almost

drunk with their own, sheer profundity, that funk of forty thousand years –

incessant and encroaching.

Up above, starlit, the remaining branches bare their secrets, sticking out

whilst determinedly reaching, imploring, adorned by sun-rusted arms, bemoaning the blank,

blue sky, ashamed of their fresh nakedness. Not over yet, still needed, wanted and adored, yet

lacerated by time’s cruel knives. We must remember that we exist and breathe anew because

of them.

In the distance, the blue transforms to slate grey, briefly lit by rippling waves of

scorched suns setting : o, this headiness, the calm seduction of woodsmoke

assailing the tortured nostril, distracted by a scuttling squirrel, barreling from tree to tree

in its everlasting quest for nut sustenance, find a little nook in which to bury shadowy

secrets, a glittery cornucopia.

Life is framed, losing its eternal battle to stay green – leave that to the bunched together

‘evers’ : they bloom, propagate stubbornly. We, we swoon in supplication at their resilience.

Look, there – seashores of swollen, fallen pine cones ; discarded, rudely shiny conkers, a ruddy,

jolly affront to the darkness oncoming.

Bang those, crash these, let dogs sniff, cows linger, ruminating and gazing at the

receding sun : another day is done.

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