In our alphabet of trees you chose the first. Apple, a gravel path
leading through a garden crunched over, turned left
down a lonning the previous tenant never knew existed. Then Ash.
1928 we chased helicopter seeds through summer and fields
backed onto by suburban patios
with children playing and the kind of grass that reminds and remembers.
2017 and January finds me at W,
waist deep in a lake snipping at the low branches of a Willow
we planted, waited on, watched for lobes, moved indoors,
crown lifted when the time was right, cut, sharpened,
dug up, put back and as of this morning
grown a full three metres since you quit me at Hazel, thirteen steps
back through the alphabet with nothing but the thin trail of soil
and a stained green circle to know you by. They said
we ticked all the boxes; south-west facing, knelt together,
cupped hands packing the soil around a stem now a trunk, a tree.
I think now how our fingers slotted together,
how our leaves brushed in the wind, how the knots of your knuckles
curled where my shoulder leant, fixed with wire
to that red-bricked wall out back.
A duck, upside down, close to the bank,
returns to the world like the bubble in a spirit level,
dives again, some unbalance,
some nagging, bobs flat, shakes
its head free of the water still clinging.
I often wonder where birds
think they’re going. If they have a plan.
Lately I’ve been doing the same with planes. How,
if they were animals, not full of
chairs and seatbelts, chartered
by some airline, they might, for all we know,
be heading somewhere without us,
and their trail in the sky
a reminder – for us as much as them –
where in the world they’ve been,
not like a footprint, less than that,
but like the updraft of a wing beat
39,000 feet from here,
tiny from this park bench, this piece of sky
reflected on the lake where,
from some previous continent,
it enters, crosses, exits into
just a trail that, as a memory would,
holds shape, disappears behind itself.
Joe Carrick-Varty is a writer based in Manchester whose work has appeared in Crannog Magazine, Brittle Star and The Interpreter’s House amongst other places. Twitter @JoeCV93