Friday, 2 November 2018


I walk through all the stillness which the forest
brings me. Not perfect stillness: footsteps, breezes
through branches, and the mystical vibrations
of trees themselves create a restlessness;
a restlessness which, in itself, is restful.
This restless-restful movement muffles silence.
You’re never still or silent in a forest,
not totally; there’s always something there.
   The previous day, I’d covered ten full pages
with poem notes: half lines, full lines, full stanzas,
and several phrases of iambic feet;
my unsuccessful quest to find the perfect
opening line. I walked. I sat. I wrote.
I wrote some more, then walked some more, then sat
and wrote and wrote and wrote. The first line would
not come. Eventually, I set off home,
and left the poem in the woods behind me.
   And so, today, I find myself among
some different trees and wonder if the poem
had moved there in the night; unwritten words
blown by a breeze, or moved by something else:
the restlessness of poetry unfinished?
I sit. Get my notebook out. Start to write.
But as with yesterday, the words I write
are not the right ones. Scribble, scribble, scribble,
the pencil goes. I look at what I’ve written.
It’s so much blah, blah, blah, and yet more blah.
I look up from the page and see that someone
has written something on a tree trunk,
a few feet away from my log-seat spot.
I get up to inspect the writing more
closely, the eyes of middle-age not being
as twenty-twenty as they were in youth.
A neat, italic script spells out the words
I breathe the forest out and all is still.
This surely can’t be accidental verse,
this bouncing pattern of iambic feet
skipping across the trunk. I wonder if
there’s more on other trees. And yes. There is.
Indifferent to estrangement from the world
is written in the same italic script
on the next tree, and as I look around me now,
I notice there are lines on all the trees.
I walk around the forest, read each line
out loud, transcribe the words into my book.
A forest, first of trees and then of poems;
hundreds upon hundreds of lines displayed.
Walking along the glory paths of fields.
  No flowers painted with the summer’s sunshine.
     This, then, you say, and only this; no more.
Unwatched, I stumbled through my ignorance.
  I shrugged my old self off; it fell from me.
    But can you hear it yet? And can you see it?
Once more the sun is hiding from the land.
  Kaleidoscope of grey above today.
    Did you not see when the clouds became waves?
This landscape, too, will pass into infinity.
  The noteless harmony of indecision.
    I recreate the universe inside my head.
If everything is just a state of mind.
  The cordiality of introspection.
    To write a never-ending list of unread lines.
I can’t believe that I was such a fool.
  The quiet voice which has no need for anger.
    The future is a different past, all told.
I leave the past behind; become the breeze.
  The past is written down in other people’s minds.
    Waiting for words to strike from who knows where.
The fountain of our youth dries up too fast.
  Give up! Give up! Give up! Don’t play the game!
    Why look towards the future’s downhill slopes?
Where are the saviours? Nowhere, that is where.
  Nowhere is where we all will end our days.
    The rhythm of the line is laid out bare.
We paved the way for saints and sinners all.
  Standing or falling: which one is the worst?
    Who is aloof? A man who hides himself.
Where can I find the things I need to find?
  Be more than what you are, just for a moment.
    Admire the nothingness of life and all its woes.
Where are the colours now? Where do they bleed?
  Wasting the day by writing unread words.
    Flowers are words, each one a poem's end.
Escape from this half-spun reality.
  Smouldering wood – the flames will soon be here.
    We did not know ourselves. We did not know
ourselves. We did not know ourselves. We did
  not know ourselves. We did not know ourselves.
    And all of us will one day be as leaves
I finish writing down the final line.
I look at the leaves on the ground. I stare
as they are displaced by a gust of wind,
and, for a second, more words appear.
   We walked between the forest trees
   and as they spoke their autumn verse,
   we heard their words and wrote them down.
   Moments are brief, like life, or what we think
   is life – it passes in a dream of what
   is not, and never was, but might have been.
Another gust whooshes them heavenwards.
They mesmerise me as they dance back down,
then settle on the forest floor, all meaning gone.
I turn to leave this mystic arboretum,
and as I walk, I think of trees. I think of words.
I think of leaves on forest floors. I think
of seasons too. Of spring’s sprung rhythms.
Of summer’s perfect days. Of autumn’s unmatched
beauty. And winter: lifeless, cold, grey, vast;
which brings the end to all which come before.
   Outside the forest now, I feel the silence.
The clouds pale grey. The air blue-cold. The bare
trees silhouetted. Stillness on its way.

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