Really delighted that this month Leopard Magazine published my poem Tree, written a few years ago when I often walked near Macduff in a deserted valley and loved to visit the ancient tree at different seasons of the year. A very beautiful place, also quite sad to think of the community which had lived there – a very long time ago now.
by Gráinne Smith
Welcome my friend.
Sit. Lean. Rest against my strength
with the length of your back pressed to me.
It is some time since last you came. Are you well?
You used to come to weep for the child who was lost,
your tears unstopped running into my roots,
the child whose boots once bent my topmost branch
and laughed at your fear.
Long ago, many children climbed, then late again
ran helter-skelter on their leaping way.
In spring they lingered watching life
moving in the ditch at my feet.
In winter small fingers held my branches,
shook free the feathers of snow
Then, the valley held whole families,
a community, in its palm.
Each week, shine or hail, warm wind or snell,
they walked with solemn tread to church,
the church that once stood proudly, calling, calling.
The burn ran clear past stone-built cotts,
wood-smoke drifted through my leaves.
Birds, beasts were fed and watered.
Backs bent over soil, planting riches.
United hands stacked full-eared sheaves.
Full grown, I watched men leave,
Singing, boots ringing on split stone,
marching to worlds far distant
to war, to plant and harvest in a foreign land.
The lights went out. Spitting birds droned
and the bell fell silent.
Later, much later, the quiet women followed
carrying children, homes, all they owned.
Now, I arch above the track, visited by deer.
Larks call high, sweet notes
fading on the wind which sings a lament
over the valley. Cattle sleep in lonely walls,
rub until loose stones fall and roll,
fall and roll with a rattle and sigh of dust.
Welcome my friend. Sit. Lean. Rest.
Weep if you must.