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The Ash Tree

For Anne Mieke

You read my typescript
and anxiously you telephone to tell me
Ygdrasil was not a sycamore:
it was an ash.
Will that invalidate the poem?
I reassure you I already knew
my dear sycamore in Camden Town
wasn't the original world tree.
I just named it after it,
as if, had your parents called you Mary,
they probably didn't mean you are
God's mother, Queen of Heaven.
Your Dutch soul gives a little shudder,
then you laugh, relieved.

The ash, you continue, used to be revered
because the same tree may bear
both male and female flowers,
be in itself the doubleness
that weaves and holds our world.
I walk out in April, May to look at it.
I feel its bark, smooth grey or calmly rippling,
note the sooty, deer-footed buds,
then blackish male clumps, almost like caviar
and the lengthening female petal bunches
that will become the keys.
With these still in bloom the first leaves
frill out from the extremities
of upward urging, arching twiggy branches.

And I am thankful
you are such a good artist
because you observe so minutely,
care about every particular
with your Low-Country respect
for nature's matter of fact,
that issues in protest at what is threatened
and your passionate compositions --
your green secular spirit absorbing,
transforming the positive energy
from fierce old Nordic sagas and
Ometeotl, Toltec supreme
Lord and Lady of Duality.

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