Boxing Day, and overfull with sweet roast turkey,
sherry trifle, fruited cake, we craved the open sky
and ventured out to Wittenham, its grassy Clumps
still frosted in the afternoon. Hand-held we stumped
up Castle Hill, to find the ancient Poem Tree –
Tubb’s tribute to his landscape: Augustine’s monastery;
remains of Roman villas cradled by the winding Thames;
Cwichelm’s grave; the distant Ridgeway; Mercia’s bounds.
We traced his pen-knifed stanzas, gnarled and worn,
distorted by a century’s growth. Before we turned
for home, we took a photograph, just us, the tree, the sky,
where over-wheeled by rare Red Kites we paused awhile.
Unseen, beneath its bark, a beetled core. A summer storm
has swept it all away; now even words are gone.
I wrote the poem below about three years ago, having spent the previous Christmas at our daughter’s home near Abingdon. Sadly, a few months after our Boxing Day walk up Castle Hill to Wittenham Clumps the Poem Tree was blown down in a summer storm. This is my tribute to a special tree. It has previously been published in The Poetry Advent Calendar and Keep Poems Alive.