Two Poems

Kathleen Jamie

The Tree House

Hands on a low limb, I braced,
swung my feet loose, hoisted higher,
heard the town clock toll, a car
breenge home from a club
as I stooped inside. Here,

I was unseeable. A bletted fruit
hung through tangled branches
just out of reach. Over house-roofs:
sullen hills, the firth drained
down to sandbanks: the Reckit Lady, the Shair as Daith.

I lay to sleep,
with by my side neither man
nor child; but a lichened branch
that wound through the wooden chamber,
pulling it close. It seemed a complicity

like our own, when arm in arm
on the city street, we bemoan
our families, our difficult
chthonic anchorage in the apple
-sweetened earth, without whom

we might have lived
the long ebb of our mid-decades
alone in sheds and attic rooms,
awake in the moonlit souterrains
of our own minds; without whom

we might have lived
a dozen other possible lives,
like taxis strangers hail and hire,
that turn abruptly on the gleaming setts
and head for elsewhere.

Suppose, just for the hell of it,
we flagged one – what direction would we give?
Would we still be driven here,
our small-town Ithacas, our settlements
hitched tight beside the river? Here

we suspect we’re best played out –
in unkempt gardens of dockens
and lady’s mantle, kids’ bikes
stranded on the grass;
where we’ve knocked together

of planks and packing-chests
a dwelling of sorts; a gall
we’ve asked the tree to carry
of its own dead, and every spring
to drape in leaf and blossom, like a pall.

Moult

At a certain time of year
coming floating toward us
innumerable sea-birds’

primaries and coverts.
Though they’re dead things
washed up on the sand

each carries a part
– a black tip, say, to the vane –
of the pattern the extended

wing displays.
What, from one flight-feather
can we tell of that design?

– if design there is,
or only its blunted idea.