Winter Trees – A Poem

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I have very much been enjoying the poetry of blogger-friends Éilis and Jane Dougherty lately, and felt inspired to dust off my word-smith’s hat and have a go myself. I wrote a lot of poetry in my youth, but quickly became disillusioned with the elitist snobbery I came across in this field of writing; some genres of artistry just seem to draw such types. Happily, the afore-mentioned ladies have dispelled my fears.

Winter Trees is an old poem I wrote when I was very young (about 16, so that’s a loooooong time ago!), but Éilis read it recently, and suggested I post it on my blog, and so, as a tentative toe-dipping back into the realms of poetic penmanship, here it is.

Winter Trees

Like tall gaunt un-fleshed skeletons
these trees, slaves to a stormy wind,
bow and bend and scrape the sky, raking from it
tears of cloud-blood
with their gnarled and knotted, black old claws,
protesting at the rigours
of a raging wind.

They have a kind of grace;
they perform their dance stiffly
like newly carved puppets
with the utmost precision
forming movements in a visual language
we cannot begin to comprehend
but only watch with awe.

The wind finds his voice only in
their praying, outstretched arms.
He sings, and roars, and weeps of the mysteries, and miseries
he has seen on his travels.
His wild, moving rhythm is the fierce, magic music
to which they contort
and set their bovine dance.

If they clothed themselves
in rich, summer-green finery,
upholding their leafy burdens to the sun’s inspection and praise,
I doubt not that soughing wind
would do more than sigh huskily
at their noble beauty,
bestow them with gentle, gusty kisses.

But now, he exploits their sad nakedness
with an enthusiasm which breaks them
creaking in two. When he has ripped out their woody hearts
and they lie dead and rigid
upon ground which once sustained them,
he will laughing pass onward to vent
a new fury elsewhere,

leaving these pathetic, ruined giants
to burn in humanity’s grates.

By The Mill

The Little Water Sprite by Ottfried Preussler, which inspired this poem. Click to buy.

The Little Water Sprite by Ottfried Preussler, which inspired this poem. Click to buy.

I wrote this poem when I was fourteen, inspired by Preussler’s The Little Water Sprite, which I read and loved as a child.

When the sun is warm,
And the grass is cool,
Then I will sit by
The old mill pool,
And watch, and wait the while, until
A movement parts the waters still.
The water sprites are again at play,
To idly pass their time away.
Their funny antics make me smile,
And shake with laughter all the while,
Until the noise brings their attention
To this strange, large being beyond comprehension,
Which to them must indeed be very frightening,
For suddenly they scatter,
Quick as lightning!
And within seconds the pond is empty,
Except for weeds, and fish in  plenty.
Yet I can just imagine those little sprites,
Cowering in their homes,
Wide – eyed with fright,
Until soon, the moon, herself shyly shows
And the landscape with gentle silver light glows.
Then out will creep those cautious sprites
To dance and play in the soft moonlight,
While I lie sleeping in my bed,
Little silver people running through my head.
And when the next morning I awake,
Myself to the mill-pond I will take,
And watch, and wait the while, until
A movement parts the waters still.