They burn their dead in the chestnut groves
where I walked today, cold-cheeked, water-eyed,
on the steep edge of Spring.
At decent intervals along the way
they wait, these humbled grand old men,
cremated from within,
exposing heart’s age, sapless,
twisted, split; dry fossil lips
of bark curled back to show
dead wood licked clean by obscene longing
now perforate with termite, beetle, ant,
awaiting damp and rot.
The winter seemed to suit them fine,
as for a month or two their stare held
but with the vigour of unclenching growth
they are embarrassed, naked, out of time,
all smoulder gone.
Soon now the grove will bow before
the perfect stillness of a summer’s heat,
the grass dry bright, a hardening of seed.
Already on their leeward side the earth’s
old scorch is barely seen, the merest
shadow of an autumn wind
as saplings thrust between old roots
and breezes play like children unreproved
upon a grave,
not knowing how the dead will feel.