Literary Orphans

A Forty Year Old […]
by Patrick Toland

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A Forty Year Old, for the first time,

Understands Joyce Kilmer’s The Trees.

 

I am not the last to see these oaks,

Not by a long chalk.

 

But something altered in the air

Or scored within the wind

 

Enlightens in me difference,

Change, a slow becoming.

 

I know the trees are quite the same;

Like pensioners that scatter crumbs,

 

Like mums that circuit round

The park, avoiding mutts

 

That bark and bother.

I too am plain forgotten

 

And know I’ll never manage

Much to pluck my roots and flee

 

The town and shake off

Leaves like dusty sandals.

 

I too am bedded, planted,

Stranded, framed

 

By poplars that shame

The church they overhang

 

And threaten soon to crumble.

Am fixture, feature, fun

 

And game to passing kids

That fling their sticks and run

 

Again as if I’d have in me

The will to chase them.

 

The oaks today straddle

Both these moods, one quick

 

To sulk at growing old,

One slow to find such fault

 

In any place or grounding.

They also seem the wiser

 

Of the two; speechless, swaying,

Waiting for a chance to speak

 

Against the clatter and the din

And I blathering, comparing,

 

Spoiling with acclaim the trees,

Knowing that they cannot, must not answer.

 

What a fool I have become –

A man who parleys with the trees

 

And reasons that they care and listen.

A man who thinks, even for a

 

Moment, that everything he knows

Could fascinate a tree.

 

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PATRICK TOLAND is a graduate of the Masters of Creative Writing in Oxford University. He is winner of the Edward Stanley Award and was selected as an emerging writer by Windows Publications in 2010 and for the 2012 Poetry Ireland Introductions Series. In 2013 he was nominated as an emerging poet in the Hennessy Literary Awards.

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–Foreground Art by Lisa Griffin
–Background Art by Dinty W. Moore