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
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.
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.
Yes, it seems as you say Naomi, even with constant reminders, both from real events and personal memory associations, most of us try not to relate too much to the limitations of life while on our own long precarious journey. A necessary defence perhaps, but also a rich source for therapeutic poetry for self and others when needed? Thanks for your comment, much appreciated.
Beautiful imagery, Everything in this poem appealed to me.
Although somewhat dark it was a striking read.
Thank you Sue. I’m pleased it appealed to you, in spite of its dark undertones. I’ve added the old intro at the end now, which hopefully makes the chosen imagery more relevant to the reader. Thanks for your comment, wishing you a prosperous and inspirational new year!
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.
Yes, thank you for this advice. Having concentrated my further education in rigid areas well away from creative English, and heavily influenced too by daily use of a second language, my weakness in writing free poetry is revealed in the fine tuning of messaging when choosing words. I do try though to keep things concise and true to intended meaning by spending a lot of time choosing words of ‘best relevance’. This poem was published in the 2016 UKA Anthology so I’ll leave it as it is, but I’m grateful for your reminding me of how important each and every… Read more »