Hill and hill and scab and scale, the hide that reaches,
gropes for the sun, lean-to, winter death.
Fingers alive caress the contours of bark,
and feel its dryness, cracked,
flaking skin flakes away in hand.
How things have burrowed,
revealing ruddy flesh,
sand-red, moist dripping.
Spurts of white flower in sunlight – spring.
Black bitter things bunch - the year is old, and the tree dies,
bare and corroded, consumed and spent.
This is the tree of life.
This is the tree of death.
Was its beginning placed by hands
or had it already been there?
Some say it is there as a warning for witches,
a warding of witches,
though fairies crawl
through wood-worm cast to sit in fleshy self.
I sat on it. I sat in a cheating card-board wood house on it,
painting life and plaiting string.
Insect menagerie, they come and go as they please.
That was when the tree was strong, pre-amputation,
before the earth shifted and set its angle.
In the summer my tree is my water,
I drink what is left of the season. I drink the sun.
Savour every drop. A year is too long.
In autumn my tree grows berries of pearl black,
bunches where the white should be, will be.
In winter the tree is a dead thing.
Wood-worm cast. Exposed and exceptional, my tree.
The tree of life, the tree of death,
witch-ward, wood-wormed, child-play.
At the bottom of my garden,
My elder tree.