Stephen Boyce is a prize-winning poet and co-founder of Winchester Poetry Festival. He is the author of three poetry collections, The Blue Tree (Indigo Dreams 2019), The Sisyphus Dog (Worple 2014), and Desire Lines (Arrowhead 2010). He has also published three pamphlet collections. Stephen lives in north Dorset.
A Prospect of Beech Trees
Sometimes a tree becomes a stoup, a font
at the threshold of winter, its gnarled joints
offering the blessing of damp beechmast,
leaf and twig and husk.
And lingering there
the sweet musk of decades of mulch trampled
by the feet of drovers, huggers, lovers
and some who found respite in shade,
took shelter from a squall.
Sometimes a tree stretches its limbs skywards
with the taut musculature of a dancer
celebrating light, the architecture
Even leafless it’s in motion
leaning into the wind, drawing shapes
in the air, elegant tableaux lit by fits
of pale sun, the sap slowing in its veins.
Sometimes a tree, swollen by pollarding,
embraces the metal barbs that mark its bounds,
quietly enfolds the possibility of pain
within the tightness of its bark.
by axe, lightning-struck, taxed with too much weight,
the tree endures, defies from season to season
what we think we know of stamina, of strength,
Sometimes in rough weather a tree issues
a silent prayer from its fissures and splits,
where the scar of a lost branch makes a lip
out of absence.
And absence evokes its own
meditation on beauty, each healed welt,
each blemish a mark of something lost,
a badge of something turned to gain.
And sometimes a choir of trees teaches us
how to hope, what it is to dream, their roots
in concert extending into the next field
ageless beneath the mould and turf.
every quiver of hidden fibre connects
with the next copse or spinney, listens,
receives, sends back life’s vibrant chord.