Willow appears on the CD Fen Song from 2006. There are several versions of the poem, and in the reading below Clare omits the last line compared to that published.


John Clare would have known this tree:
the willow on the river bank, so gnarled
it has made its own canopy of shadow.
Too old to date, creaking every year
with the knowledge of spring.
Returning an ancient grey grace.

Children swing on it across the narrow
river. The certainty of roots planted
in water, taking them to lie in hawkweed,
grass and the meadow green.
It has kept its philosophy of leaves:
monument in cold light, enough twigs
to build a fire, trunk strong enough to
withstand the heat of flames.

Underneath it the path stretches to the wood.
Other places left to go wild,
the threading of wind in the reeds.
A place to lean back and listen,
close to the ground touching dust,
finding shelter on a hot afternoon,
or a cave in the rain.

Like the slow surprise of a fiddle note.

For more of Clare’s readings, see Poem Readings. And you can also find Clare’s readings of her poems for the Waterlight Project at that project’s site.

All poems © Estate of Clare Crossman