Michael Shepherd (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)
It was one of so many; an army
of greenness; anonymous footsoldier
in the cause of nature’s greater good.
It was tree.
First, as summer lingered into autumn,
it laid down its arms; the days of empire-building
over; no longer did it need
to fight in serried ranks for space.
Then next, laid down the need to breathe;
lingered strong upon the branch
as old soldiers do, before they fade away;
boasted now, beyond loyalty, all pride.
Now, its fire of life turned to new arts
in pensioned, eased retirement; learned
a new palette of colours,
yellows, reds, browns; how to shade
from one to another; how to take
the breath away with contrast.
Then, as it relinquished hold
on water, took up further skills;
learned precious, porcelain fragility;
curled like a dancer’s sway,
found arabesques and curves of beauty
beyond the finest human artistry.
Finally, submitted to relinquish even earth.
A last curling fall at a moment’s puff of wind
all beyond its knowing
brought it onto the gatepost,
level with my eyes, just as I passed the gate;
displayed like some ballerina in the last pose
of some tragic, swan-necked dance, that time
could indeed stand still: so that even beauty
held her breath and waited…
in that moment outside time,
told me all unspoken things:
thoughts that rest too deep for tears;
there where tears meet joy.
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