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.