monday verse: a wood coming into leaf


From the first to the second

Warily, from the tip to the palm

Third leaf (the blackthorn done)

From the fourth to the fifth and
(Latrix, Castanea, Fraxinus, Tilja)

Thaw taps, groping in stumps,
frost like an adder easing away

The sixth to the seventh (plums conceive
a knobbly stone within a blossom)

Ushers the next by the thumbs to the next…

A thirty-first, a thirty-second

from A Wood Coming Into Leaf by Alice Oswald

One of the lovely things about living in the countryside is being keenly aware of the changing of the seasons. This is particularly true in spring, when things can change from day to day. I walked past a thicket of blackthorns a couple of weeks ago, with the buds still tightly closed. A few days later, when I passed that way again, the whole thing was a mass of white blossom.

I wasn’t familiar with this lovely poem by Alice Oswald until I came across it in the collection The Seasons (Faber & Faber). It perfectly captures the way the woods wake very gradually from their winter sleep, leaf by leaf and tree by tree, until the whole place is dressed in green once again.

The leaves in the photograph, by the way, are hornbeam. They don’t get a mention in the poem, but these were captured at the end of April last year.

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