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