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Tuesday 16 June 2009

400 Feet Above Your Head

Lie on your back among those giant redwoods if you can,
or failing that amid wild Caledonian pines,
then turn your lazy gaze towards the canopy's green shade,
catch with your dazzled eye the filtered sun still streaming
though fuzzy now, a kind of blinding haze.
You're looking at, although you will not see, the world's
last untouched wilderness.
A small boy in his dreams might climb like fabled Jack,
the tallest tree,
to find, not monsters, no colossus, but an Eden unalloyed,
familiar as any on the ground... and yet these beetles seem
to have a different dress code from the ones he's known;
these ants have never ruined an alfresco meal -
they're not the type;
for this is nature taking a new road, exploring What-if?
variations on her ancient themes.
All this the small boy might assimilate - yet not
be conscious of the pearls he's chanced upon.

And if you fall asleep on that soft debris, let it be, for
will not compete with this: here roam vast herds that only
birds have seen,
here geckos dart from dark organic caves in moonlit forays
for their prey
and grey mud sirens squelch the aerial ooze in search of

Small lakes and bogs there are where trunks branch out
in threes or fours,
or those same hollows hold a metre's depth of soil -
unearthly compost,
out of which come pygmy tribes of rowan, mountain ash or oak,
concealed from you, for nursed in deep parental crooks
in lordly boughs
or piggy-backed on those great shoulders high above the
Nor will you see their Palace of Versailles - its fine facade
for long an untried thought,
its rooms cool tents of Bedouin richness carpeted with moss.
Soft furnishings of matted ferns, webs, mesh
and mucous membranes that the minibeasts have left,
line everywhere the unbuilt walls; large deadwood sculptures,
carved by unseen hands, are set among the flowers;
and from the hollow branches tumble fruits to tempt a guest:
bog whortleberry, grape, red current and the rest,
along with bold-hued fungi, peas, grey lichen, beans and
lentils - richness
far beyond what you might once have dreamed or guessed.

There's nothing in this pristine world of what you might
Here species show their other sides, swap lifestyles for a
Who would have thought to find such widespread colonies
of red gilled bugs and water boatmen high among the leaves?
But now we've found them... ah, how can we leave them
We take our bows and arrows, fire our ropes
and calmly walk the smoothest trunks to those high balconies..


Tess Kincaid said...

What a beautiful palace those giant readwoods make. I've always wanted to experience this in person. I must go WEST! Lovely piece, Dave.

Francis Scudellari said...

I love the pictures you paint here, and definitely was inspired with a yearning to see such things not just in your words but in their natural realm. Very beautifully written.

readingsully2 said...

Can't see it....okay Dave...no more whining on my part. :) Sorry. I posted a poem for the first time at my blog...it is an old one. I have not written seriously in a long while.

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed this view of the world within an old-growth tree; so well conceived. The meter moves naturally in a conversational way but keeps a good underlying pulse throughout, & there are some great sounds, especially in the second stanza.

Unknown said...

For some reason, I am crying. Like the best~ Frost or Elliot, you captured for me, with these brilliant words, a moment and brought me in close.

I can smell the trees in my hair.

Cloudia said...

I WAS THERE in your poem! Thank you.
"an Eden unalloyed,"

Ronda Laveen said...

This reminded me of field trip I took once in school. Each piece of the trip, very interesting. Lovely.

Rachel Green said...

Utterly enchanting.

Dave King said...

Very kind sentiments. Grateful thanks.

Sorry your couldn't see. Have left a note on your blog.

Much obliged for those useful comments. Thanks.

Wow! Mentioned in the same breath as Frost and Eliot! Must be my birthday. Thanks for stopping by.

Your presence made it all the better.

Interesting thought.


Jennifer Archer said...

I could definitely see...and smell, and hear, and even taste the air! Beautiful. I have been talking about a trip to see the redwoods. No putting it off now, I'm going to plan it!

Karen said...

Dave - I may have said this before (especially I remember the one about Tunnels), but THIS is your best work yet!! I felt the rhythm and the tone of the Romantics. Your delving into nature, going deep beyond our sight into the real world, is Romantic poetry at its best. I can't pick out favorite lines, but I know that when I look at monuments and palaces, I'll think of the times they were "an untried thought."

This is wonderful. Thank you.

Unknown said...

From where do you summon such visions, Dave? I love "tents of Bedouin richness" and the rest of that stanza. You could make a person feel unworthy of writing a single word!

Shadow said...

your comparisons are amazing. i loved this read!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Absolutely beautiful, Dave. I have watched people on TV going up into the canopy of the rain forest - I have no head for heights but, as you say, it is another world up there. I can't help thinking it would be good to leave it totally undisturbed - but now that people have got the feel for it - as you say, everyone will want to do it. Lovely poem.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Dear Dave, great work and so intense, a rapture.
But what happened? To me it seems it had dropped out of thin air. Or thin treetops.
As far as I know those kinds of trees are in California but it seems unlikely you have just been there and written the poem...is it about a past experience?

By the way I wrote you yesterday an email about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, I had a question and it didn't seem right to write about it here, but your email address I found in the blog doesn't seem to work. Have you got a different one?

ArtistUnplugged said...

We had the pleasure of walking among these lovely trees. Your description is most lovely of the beautiful area amongst them.

Fiendish said...

Strange piece, soaked with that kind of sharp-focused imagery. I do like it, particularly the eerie ending (and the phrase "high balconies": how lovely).

Just a note about the text -- it was too small to read comfortably and I had to copy and paste into Microsoft Word, then increase the size. Maybe you can fiddle with it or something?

Heather said...

Your lovely poem reminded me of a wonderful holiday some years ago, visiting Seattle, Vancouver and part of the Rockies. I took an entire roll of film in a rain forest so that I would have a record of those amazing trees, only to find on my return that my camera had not wound the film on!! Thankyou so much for reawakening those happy memories - the holiday, not the frustration!!

Madame DeFarge said...

Loved this, captured what I feel when I'm in a big forest or near any trees. There's something about them that catches my breath every time.

Leenie said...

I finally got a moment to vist your blog. A lot of thought provoking writing and some fascinating thoughts on art! As for the redwoods: I've been there. They are unbelievable! So huge, old and musty. It is impossible to come away with a photograph that captures their giantness. Thank heavens the canopy is a challenge to reach. We can only hope this magic place will not be trashed like so many other wonders.

Leenie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Cuban In London said...

What a beautiful elegy to nature, dave. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The joy coming out of it was contagious. And yet your magnificent poem made me think of civilisations gone by rather than our fauna and flora. It reminded me of the Aztecs conquered by the Spaniards, of the Dahomeyan kingdom, brought down by the French, of Yoruba Nigeria, Christianised by the British. Your inclusion in this 'other' world of works made by man was measured and careful. I read it three times and I will probably read a fourth one before I leave. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Dave King said...

I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy it. _ Hope to hear about it on your return. Thanks very much for the comment.

Wow! Thanks for all those lovely comments. Glad you enjoyed it.

I read an article in a magazine in a hospital waiting room. It mentioned the redwood canopy (and the Caledonian pine canopies) as being largely unexplored, no one really knowing for sure what is up there. Some facts there were, which I incorporated into the poem, but they inturn set the imagination loose.

Thanks very much for that.

The Weaver of Grass
Yes, that was my feeling, it does seem a shame that nothing can be left as was.

For the explanation to the peom see my comments to Derrick. The email I will chase up, I was only briefly on line yesterday and didn't get to check the emails. Many thanks for the comments.

Artist Unplugged
I do greatly envy you. It must have been a marvellous experience. Many thanks, though, for taking the time out to comment.

Sorry about the difficulties reading. Check my reply to Readingsully2. I don't know why the same tags worked differently on the two occasions, but will try to investigate. You shouldn't have to cut and paste.

Thanks for your comments on the poem. they were much appreciated.

What a disaster with the camera! I would have been devastated! I do sympathise - and I do thank you very much for the comments.

Madame deFarge
There is that something, you are absolutely right. Thanks for that.

Here, here! My sentiments exactly. Thanks for the response.

A Cuban in London
Thank you for those remarks. Very humbling. Your analogy with past civilizations is intriguing. I don't think I would ever have thought of it, but having been presented with it, so to speak, it strikes me as a powerful one.

Carl said...

Dave- You have captured in words that thing that draws me to the woodlands with my camera. Wonderful indeed.

If I have a poem in me to write it is about the quiet and noise of the woods.


Dave King said...

I'm sure you do have it in you to write. It's finding the key word or phrase that will unlock it for you. Not much different from seeing the composition that will stand in for the whole scene. I appreciate the generous encouragement.

Cathy said...

Ah, Caledonian redwoods! This is lovely, can you spare my feeble eyesight and change the font lol? Thanks, I'd love to read more :-)

Rosaria Williams said...

Old groves or virgin forests still exist here in the West, with accompanying polemics. You captured the world of the ancient groves, the smells and signts like nothing else.

Unknown said...

All the time I was reading the poem I kept thinking that the substance of the canopy has not been discovered and yet it is rapidly disappearing. This canopy is the very protection we need from the climate change we are experiencing all over the world. Looking up into a forest canopy and considering why it exists is something we all need to discover. I like the way the words are written in trailing vines.

Dave King said...

Sorry you are having difficulty, but it appears differently in different browsers. I did spend a lot of time on the font size thingy, but couldn't get the tags to work as before. You should be able to resize the print in your browser,

Many thanks for that encouraging comment.

Welcome to my blog. I very much agree with your comments on the importance of the canopy, and appreciate the feedback that you have given. It is most helpful.

theresamillerwatercolors said...

David, what a fabulous blog you have here!!! looking forward to getting to know you better. Thanks for stopping by and for the kind remarks, I appreciate it. Hugs from Theresa

Dave King said...

Hi and welcome to my blog. Very many thanks for the generous remarks. I certainly enjoyed myself at your blog.

Mary Paquet said...

David, thanks for visiting my blog. What a beautiful piece you've written and you've created such lovely images with your words.

At the moment the pictures are not displaying for me, but I will be back!

Lucas said...

This poem taps in to the childhood dream of lying and gazing up though branches to the sky: very precise references to tree types too.
I like the way the Palace of Versailles becomes a metaphor for the grandness of Nature.

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