‘We are born into the world, and there is something within
us which, from the instant that we live, more and more
thirsts after its likeness.’
(Percy Bysshe Shelley)
‘It was the year that everything went wrong.’
My father’s estimation says it all.
Now, when I think about where I came from,
and how lives are formed, how radically transformed,
it seems that family life as it would become
was foreshadowed in the ash that Dad named Yggdrasil.
The snared sewer-roots jamming the drainage
meant the young ash would be felled in its spring,
its sacred, fabled, ineradicable tap
a complex of unfathomable roots,
double-crossed, a circuitry transverse
at the very nexus of the well-spring.
In my mind’s eye it stands as it stood in life:
the furrowed cladding of its honey-tendering
timber, its cast mesh of delicate shade,
or with sibilant whiplash limbs aflail
a shrill gust hissing in the rainlit roots,
a past life pulling at the hair roots of home.
The life-tree rooted in death and detritus,
I hung in the balances of its boughs
and hang there still, a banquet for the crows.
To be a foetus forming as the tree
of life’s cut down, to be as yet unborn…
(I am fixed here. I’ve been fixed here all my life.)
The sap of ash won’t heal whatever ails me;
the garden’s raw grace abruptly disrupted,
a destiny prefigured in its sibyls.
I had a dream in which I walked a path
all bright sprigs of bloom in embryo darkness
as if the air flickered with black butterflies,
and for an instant thought I caught
the fetch of my own semblance in the trees.
Then from the pale green sprinkling of spring leaves
there stepped a girl, her arms extended, saying
‘James, take my hand; do not be afraid;
this time I will not fade, I promise,
as I have in so many of your dreams…’
And then to remember nothing, nothing except
the bright disguise of stripling flowerets,
the wandlike spindles of an evergreen ash,
its yielded samaras hymning excelsior
which, to be sure, is more than adequate.
It came to me that I myself was counterfeit,
a mirror image of my proper self,
the shadow of that soul which is my being.
Now the two of us walk within a garden
that quickens with transplanted life, where clustering
ash keys tremble with the secrets they unlock,
in which florescence the female becomes male
and vice versa, or else they merge as one;
thwart sibs of the one root: indivisible.
Contributor’s Notes: Jim Newcombe hailed from Derbyshire in the heart of England before uprooting to London in 2006, where he now lives in a goldfinch-charmed garret beside the sequestered Turnham Green. An amateur naturalist by day and a cordial maltworm by night, he is currently writing a novel and a series of short stories. He has had work published in numerous publications.