Boys From An Ancient Wood

Annual visit to a grave. Pic: of Lowood, my own


Circling red-dotted holly,
a tortoise shell of perfect symmetry,
jade belly uppermost,
admits light through orifices,
revealing two porcelain eggs
shining like sightless eyes
in empty skull.

Under creeping moss,
worms still wriggle in a blackbird’s eye
of purple sheen devouring its brain;
here lies a brother,
born when wind-blown leaves
expose Summer’s vicious toll;
when air overhead nudges and flaps
imminent departure.

Those rooks and starlings
knew somehow he would not live long.
Memories here belong to
another England, that had died with
a season so apt for sorrow.
How impermanent this feeling,
of being alive.


My brother, who was six years older, died many years ago aged just 48. The strong tortoise memory coupled to him was a strange find when we were two young boys looking for bird nests in local woods, dying in its prime, entangled in thick holly stems, expecting renewed life; and the worm/blackbird reference is about role-reversals that shouldn’t happen; the worm eating the bird/the child dying before the parent; all used to try to convey the cold permanence of this death. A poem of word associations.



© Gothicman 2023
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This is very haunting. So many striking images, but that last verse was particularly moving. The impermanence of living is something we should all be aware of.


Beautiful imagery, Everything in this poem appealed to me.
Although somewhat dark it was a striking read.


I like the workings of this poem. For some reason, I find the word “knew” in the last stanza to be overstated; Perhaps “intimated” or “foretold” or “portended” or “presaged” is closer to the underlying mystery. It may just be my superficial reading of it.

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