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The Lemon Tree

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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

over the Central Sea (some say that

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.