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Silver Birches

I grew up in a house called Silver Birches

a comfortable middle-class name I suppose

but we were a comfortable middle-class sort of family

and there were after all

silver birches in the garden.


Tall, elegant trees

leaves a bit too small perhaps

like delicate, slender fingers

on an grown man.

And branches that began far above the ground,

too high for climbing

even for wiry, bony-legged boys

with little sense of danger,

and trunks that were smooth and rough simultaneously,



But it was the seeds that clamoured for attention,

the mad profusion of nature,

a million cast to the wind that one or two may grow.

Minuscule alongside a conker, an acorn even.

Everywhere we found them,

tiny flying saucers that made their way

into books, bedding, bath.

And their seed-companions, tiny aeroplanes

like the ones dad flew in the war

(to my boyish eye)

piling up in crashed squadrons in a doorway or garage corner,

suspended mid-flight in a spider’s web,

or attached, limpet-like, to my socks.


Silver birches, companions of my childhood,

there before I was born

there when I left home

there still perhaps,

longer-lived than I’ll be.

We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree

And wither and perish…

But we are trees, not leaves

we mark the seasons as they come and go

rake the dead leaves

and see their successors unfurl

sooner or later to see them fall.


And now, at the foot of my garden

again there are silver birches

though the house this time is called, prosaically,


But still the seeds go everywhere.


Simon Hancock