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Lay for the Day
11th January

A winter’s tale…

Windsor Trees

The jets’ flight path, overgrown with silence
and birdsong, is excavated and metalled
by their ravenous din. Quiet reweaves
blue, white, green, still river and clouds, in shoots
of level sunlight, until orange leaves
the far black trees suffused violet, enamelled
green water, and the near trees’ eloquence
in a blue bloom, as though their drinking roots
in night-bearing earth fed fountains damping day.

January night grows cold. Writhed, leafless
wood spreads out like the maps of black rivers.
If these are gestures then they do not speak
but by example. Their twisting is not
suffering, nor adventitious. This bleak
rigging holds up fistfuls of green slivers
to the sun in season, which should redress
their injury, each leaf a broken clot
where light flows, buds ravelled from the knotted tree.

No necessity enables me to see.
Because the branches bear contracted hands
to heaven, although I am a witness
to the deal, they do not reach down to me.
The branched canals of their extended ears
feel in the air for summer’s flowering key
turning locked earth to dance. Hardy fitness
of turned words dies or lives, and river sands
aren’t fed one silt-grain. Long hollow years
in books won’t raise the sap in fleshless time.

Why accumulate insubstantial rhyme?
There was a gardener who knew his place,
had hands wide as shovels, whose patina
and polished grain shed starlight of cells when
plunged in black earth, and nails gathered its crumbs.
He shared his body among saplings then
under the crown of turrets. An inner
gold stood where the red sun, hiding its face,
fell among the offspring of his bald thumbs.

Some misunderstand this in another way.
Drunkards’ sick turns gold-dust in distillers’
vats. Their green bottle breaks and they strangle
order. Their knuckles bud through fingers split
like sausage-skin between the cold and fire.
Unfit, they’ve found the common tongue to spit
and gozz out snot and curses. Hooked, they wrangle
off the iron fence, falling on a killer’s
waste-ground. Half-buried, almost entire,

they turn up two cuddling bodies,
arm in rotten arm. Nobodies:
the forms of need and desire.

John Gibbens
from Collected Poems

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar