Michael Vince Poems Contact

Twelve Poems of Michael Vince

photo of Michael Vince in Rome


TREE CLIMBING


At the back of the house on wasteland

past the allotments, in a thicket

of elder and hawthorn was an ash-tree

on a chalk bank


where a path led up to a clearing,

our camp. There was easy climbing

into its branches, it was perfect

for swinging on,


and the dead shoots at the base of the trunk

could be snapped off and peeled:

their dry pith made spongey

sweet cigars.


Smoking for seven-year-olds,

like seed-gathering or stone-throwing,

was obligatory as fire-worship,

arrow-making,


or scrounging allotment potatoes

for roasting in ashes. Tribal demands

for territory, raids into gardens,

ritual violence,


and worship of the Great Goddess -

if we could find the right pictures -

all fade with summer evenings where

hose-pipes splutter


and die. How far, the ground below

lost in complications of foliage,

he climbs with a wave down to friends

or anxious parents


as he feels the sprung shape of the tree

sway with his weight, as branches

slip from reach and he can’t come down,

that ghostly boy.