Taking stock of woods

Douglas Oliver

Grey cloud roof sliding backwards lifts blue sky
into the notch between hill-lines green au gratin.
Pom-pommed, the slopes barge trees into valley turbulence.
Along the summits, sunlit topknots.
down to mid-distance, puffs, explosions, uprisings,
striking tall, and achieved stature, horizontal shadow-flows
running along the sides, mists of green dreaming
scabbed with blackened precipices, as if the hills
were green dogs with the mange. The new sky
now lightly creamed with softened stratus settles out.

Near at hand fast river speeds under the tickety sun leaves
river swirls under wallowing beech shades,
something in sliding of flow-speed under fragmented stirring.

In front, then, these near woods; behind, the hilly woods
and green freckles on the blue simple sky.
Wilderness valley grazed as by sheep by tree tops.

Seeing holds lazily in union, or the eye keeps particularising:
across stream, a green infanta hawthorn in a clearing;
another dwarfed and crazy as a green Jack Frost,
insect thin trees, lion mane one
whose lower branches show hands sunlit from windows.
As many shapes as among shifting clouds:
fists and sparklers and fingers and fleurs de lys
and candles and fans and umbrella spokes
and florid gestures and controlled
and upstands and seal-heads of them
and black scribble branches and cauliflower tightness
above trunks in perspectives changing.
Sunlight splats dead leaves, or its pools calm, widening,
under ivy-wrapped sticks and angry
crossings out and quiet acceptance of variance
inter-breed decorum and dashed away sketches
and spears against shields
and scilia and anenome shapes and fringes,
witchfingers and a competition of heights
and sudden dark success in silhouette and watch trees
and bird releasers and
denuded, bottom-heavy trees whose skirts
have slid to their ankles
or those top-crowded with skirts stuck over their heads;
also a matron, by which is meant the elegance
of mysterious limbs imagined by small boys
under the full skirt of a wealthy aunt;
and overblown and undershot and roundly frisky
and up and down gents and side to side wiggers
and hands signing briskly and stickety.

Among all those well plumaged trees over there,
another blackened carcase with its claws’ grab,
and branches kebabbed with irregular leaf clumps.

The clearing comes close in a magnifying lens,
its forms protozoic or fronded in flat clear water,
under-pool browns rotted and furred by acid rains.
Beside it, a yes-no probability tree of geometric branches
and spotted and starred with leaf splodge on bark,
trees deformed into ugly questions,
and the all-decorative lacking solid base,
the pretty girls of it
and proffered argument or arm, and intimate in scale,
or distant, and matted with light like grimed hair locks
and frizzy-ribbed and blackcocked and turkey necked branches
with odd-clumped leaves like wattles,
masses underbellied in shadows,
or brusque and crimson-brown,
and each in conversation for to share the light,
not a squabble but a metaphysical shouldering into spaces
so slowly across time that there are no collisions.

Slanting blossom held on a deft waiter’s tray
the trees offer you.

Sap green, veridian, emerald, grass green,
golf-course green, park green, sea green,
apple green, chartreuse, evergreen,
sparrow green, mallard green, greenshank green,
bird-limed leaves,
algae green, gutter green, drain green,
iron green, teeth green, blossoms green as teeth
stem green, reed tops greeny-grey,
dawn-sky green, storm green,
old boat paint green, old post green
seaweed green, tide mark on wood green
green straw, blazer green,
and Holy Grail green, and Green Man green
and Green Party green,
well, vote for it, vote for the green,
and white of day confusing now the blue sky.