The Lemon Tree
We planted a lemon tree where the sun
will draw every drop through the ripening
earth. The old tree had straggled too far
for light, eclipsed by a neighbour’s
elm gleaming haughtily before the Fall:
in shadow struggling still (fidelity
under dignity) in a dim birth to give us
fruit for tea on a summer’s afternoon:
generous of its seed held as offerings
to the never foreign sun. And I, the son,
have planted both with ceremony.
Far of, distant, green, I have climbed
with you on the ledges above Amalfi
the pith of you is dead). Now rooting out
to spread its water-rationed mouths
to inverse seasons and does not appear
to care that days and water twist another
way. So why should I? Am I less compliant
than a giving tree nurtured with compounds
and much more light than a man can bear?
Planted deep within a friable earth,
already familiar to the starlings while
a lonely craw all come to change, bend
the pliant with its springing blossoms
unconcerned from chambers beneath the spade,
twine with biting odours and a juice
to clear my startled mouth of words: a space
for thought in an ellipse upon a twig in air.
My father and I planted a lemon tree on Sunday
and we stood by the window to watch through
rain and it illuminated our faces long apart
in its slow fingering through the loam. Well done
is down in the churning where we cannot see.
For this day of rain we left the sea
and bought a lemon tree more fruitful for
us than any load it could wish to bear.