Oak Tree at Isel Bridge


Late as usual, the moon sets up.

For half an hour it sticks around the oak,

the branches black before the whole sky,


the oak is in the centre of a field edged

by a loop of river and a blackthorn hedge,

nothing has altered here for centuries

but the tree’s girth and the water in the beck

though peculiarly the freshness of it

makes it almost seem to be the same.


The field’s absorbed the summer visitors,

swallows, children, camomile, a swan,

it keeps their spirits underneath the bridge

against their safe return.  Tomorrow

sun will blow shadows to the winds

the tree will empty out its pockets,

spiders, squirrels, wood lice, mites,

busy themselves about their lives,


more water from the lake will be the river

here under pressure from the fells

and forces that drop past and land on stone.

More water from the sky will be the tree.


And the river, pegged down by its rocks and rushes

gives and takes the moonlight, pale, as you’d expect

of last night’s rain and yesterday’s sun combined.

Now, here’s the place to clear the memory.

The oak tree is a traveller in time,

if it’s learnt one thing, it’s like the present best;


The rain begins, and everything comes together.

Rain’s in the children and the creatures

and the leaves, and like the leaves, the rain

can never fall from grace, and cannot fall without.

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