Scientists Have Discovered
that trees become seasonably depressed
by lack of sunlight, exhibit symptoms of stress,
worry about losing limbs to autumn gales,
and are terrified of carpenters.
Carpenters are saw-toothed and unforgiving,
like my neighbour the baritone, who loathes
windborne leaves and after choir practice
brushes them into tousled stacks,
saves them till my shirts are on parade
and my windows agape, and then burns them.
Trees have no feelings for those who have,
they jack up flagstones and crack walls,
step out in front of sons» cars, black the light
by day, and howl all night round the pergola.
Give me three good reasons for trees,
he choruses across the fence, or even two.
And the courtyard birch behind me hisses,
Give me one good reason for reason,
and launches above his head two or three
leaves it has made from sunshine and clay.
You won't believe it when it happens,
you who believe in everything but God
(or in nothing but), may not even
know it has happened, though you felt
lighter inside than out, floated above yourself,
flinched at the cold breath of passing
wings, and almost embarked on a ship
made out of fog, the night sailing.
Look at you now, like a blind
ass in an olive mill being led
by another's tail, xylophoning your prison bars,
conjuring up small blue icebergs peppered with
grit in an eau-de-Nil lagoon.
Heatwaves and ice years prolong the detention
(how they quarry the cliffs into truck-sized
blocks that need shifting), as does your
garden of labelled sticks and being desensitised
by the sweet Grecian smell of creosote.
Trees are simply green things without thoughts
that stand in our way. Only by
becoming brainless ourselves can we understand them.
Same goes for olives, quasars, genes, love,
you name it. Don't you wish that
worry wasn't the highest form of imagination?
What matters is that nothing matters, except
that you keep your instruments keen, in
working order, ticking over and alert,
ready for when it happens. And it will.
From the makers of expressions for photographs
and suppliers to schools and hospices worldwide,
a selection of our most collectable smiles:
the kid»s through long sobbed-for ice cream;
the smiles given by those with little else;
the smiles of passengers grounded by fog
who crack every gag in the Nervous
Flyer's Joke Book; the smile of landing lights;
the once-seen lady's, sweet and kind,
smiling and spinning at her wheel, you
did but see her driving by and
yet you love her till you die;
the smile that couldn't keep its lips
to itself, and later can't remember any
of that, just her brass redhead's polished
globes in which his faces were reflected;
the smiles we gave the tree that
groweth in the midst of the garden,
having hung back on its branches the
fruit of the knowledge of false opposites;
the smile when she says 'Cut out
the bloody levity' and leaves behind only
her scent, sweet and sour, his favourite;
the smiles more beautiful on plainer faces;
the hermit's on returning to his maisonette
bearing pepper, no more than a bee
can carry, in a twist of scripture,
knowing that only God and he exist;
the smile that, having noticed how each
raindrop inverts the garden, a galaxy of
small worlds upside down against the glass,
goes out to investigate and returns inscrutable;
the immortal's when he announces in Homebase
that he is nearly 88 and needs
a lawnmower with a 5-year warranty, minimum;
the smiles of the Early Church, so-called
because of its exceptionally early rising and
other forms of asceticism, whose funerals went
dancing through the streets waving psalm trees
and singing 'The dead are never sad';
smiles that trivialise terrors, ensconsing us into
seeming knowledge when we should submit ourselves
to an unknown fear; and the face
of desolation which can still, somehow, smile.
You rush into the shopping arcade
and step aside to avoid the mirror-clad
pillar when you meet yourself rushing out.
Swiftly you pass, and may even glance
over your shoulder just in time to glimpse
yourself spinning on your heel,
wondering which of you is real. As I did,
before hurrying off, getting home first
and trying to persuade her there was only one
of me. But apparently she had always known
there were two, and the one she loved
should soon be home, if I»d care to wait.
Delighted to have daylight to see you by
as night to not, to watch you taking shape
from inside out in labial pink and cherry,
composing your risen self in silksoft lamina,
blue on blue, leaf smoke on sky. And then,
dear you, making leery mouths in the glass
and spending ages on the face that ages
before you. Had I been myself I could have
told you you weren't yours, in that lipstickless
self-portrait in reverse, the mirror's invention.
I can write it now you're gone, have left me
my self again (I tell myself), alone with words
in a room. Poetry is for those who need it,
you say, who don»t, defining the heart's need,
provoking love notes you will never read.
My brother has 23 mirrors
on his Lambretta, said the glazier,
as he closed an opening
with a sheet of raindrops.
Perhaps his brother saw the world
transformed when he grew tall enough
to see himself in mirrors, see how
a world looked with him in it.
Later, when the stuttering started,
did he too carry a well concealed
talking glass? Did a quick peek
tell him he looked the same
as everyone else, and didn't need
to stammer his head off
any more than they did? And
did the glass keep getting smashed?
Look, quick, the glazier gasped,
pointing his eyes at a slow gull
beating across the wet slate roof
above a dark imposter.