Johnson’s Willow: Winner of Poetry Competition
Resurgam – I shall rise again
Extracts adapted from ‘By the River, at Stowe Mill, Lichfield, where the Streams Flow Together’ and ‘Know Thyself’ by Samuel Johnson, translated from Latin by John Wain.
|Book leaves endure, old words rising spring fresh
through yellowed paper, clear as glass the stream
still wanders, bending trees conceal the water
in a daytime darkness, but this speechless willow
has a different trick, perfectly reclothed each spring
as March slips into April, summer crowned, then
drifting spent tattered yellow leaves in autumn.
Each year’s wheel is counted under her ridged skin;
wide when life grew easy, contracted narrow
by scant rain, vicious winters.
Still, she bears her long tree span lightly
unmarked by grief and loss scarring human lives,
minds full of fear – of ghosts, of the fleeting glimmer
of the thin shadows of nothing, the absence of shapes.
This clever willow dreads neither decay nor death;
lightning may strike, storms lay low, but her art
of replication’s more perfect than any printing press.
No errata, no genetic miscoding – after each dissolution
she rises youth renewed from phoenix ashes
every fresh, immaculate leaf singing resurrection,
just as water, never tiring, still runs in the same channel.
© 2021 Sarah Dale