by Justina Barley



Take my hand

I’ll lead you through

The weeping land


The battle sky cracks

Rain imps pluck my coat

And flick the waterproof

With sly contempt


The great sower broadcasts

His liquid bounty

Profligately shattering the land

With strained glass


Crystal quartz

Caught on branches

Polishes the ends of needle fingers


Wearing her suit of hair

The fleece tree

Cloaks herself


Below the lichen cloth

Hieroglyphs tattoo her skinbark

How can I translate them?

Read me, she begs, weeping

As I study the wands and cups

Of the tarot moss.

What are you trying to tell me?



From fluid stalactites

She strews wind-rain

As it pushes her laden hair


Then all the trees reach out to pock their drops

wide onto the silvered mirror

Each the epicentre of its own small quake


The boiling margins

As the rain, not rain,

Bubbles down

Disturb the sleeping giant

Whose hair billows as he breathes.

He hides among the rippled reeds.


Beyond, the lake is silent.


We enter the canape of trees          

Look up to them

Eager to taste this appetiser of the higher landscape

Foray into the carnivorous forest    

All of them eating                               

Cush cush cush

Calling its prey

No damselflies in amber yet

Here where this tree has bled

Help, I’ve fallen

There is no help

Except you become a floating world                               

A silvern sill                                                                          

Pack your trunk, coin tree

I could have brought my little pick

To mine your metal life


More will fall

Struck with the orange doom


There is a poem in the trees

A pome on the rowan

A story in the leaves


I need the spark

I will rub the sticks

Of my brain together

Branch signals through my neuron forest

Mimic the wooden caul

to give structure to my story

The tracery that holds the world together

The soil-skin down


I will make a tale

Like that spilling from the world-root

With a bark of scales


But man is the great snake

The asp with the axe


Bitterly, the unpalatable truth

is that tannin will not protect you from a chainsaw


Who has counted

The cost of the trees

Where numbers measure its interest


Trees weep for the melted land

but there are never enough tears to quench the smoke

or soften the brash of

Slash and burn


The trees are still weeping

We will weep forever


Later, we look down

The land wears its coat of trees

The rock its land-cape


As the sky lifts

We un-brella


Will you stand?

Will you give me hope?

Will you stand as a rainbow for me?


When the trees end

The land ends


But you will rise.