We have four fruit trees in our front garden – gooseberry, apple, pear and plum. The gooseberry is never quite reliable – some years you get tons of the things, and others just a few wrinkled relics, like tiny deflated footballs; the apple tree is more of a bush really, or maybe a squat collection of branches. We had two apples from it once, and they both tasted acid on the tongue – even the birds refused them.  The pear tree is an Old Reliable – every year it produces green ,Conference-type pears. There are far too many for us, so we usually divide the hoard into plastic bags – ten per bag- and sneak round the immediate neighbourhood, putting a bag on our neighbours’ front doors.

It is the plum tree which has surprised us. For the first time ever, we have had a good crop. The trouble is that plum trees have very dense foliage, so you have to peer through the leaves to find the. They are lovely things – blushing pink, or a hint of purple – and the taste is rich and sweet, and luxurious. Now I’ve eaten fresh plums bought from the market- and they were fine – but to eat plums from your own tree is a wonderful thing. The American poet William Carlos Williams wrote a lovely poem about eating plums, and I’ve written a poem which answers it- in a way.


Those plums you picked
this morning from the tree –
which you were going to make into a tart –
I’ve eaten them –

how sweet they were and soft
like congealed sunlight.



Born again


A man botched up from sticks and bone –
all angles, elbows pointing out,
and one leg twisted round its mate
like ivy round a tree.

As we come abreast of him, I see
the sleeveless denim jacket, skinny arms
pale and freckle -spotted, his white face
wet with effort, clenched like a closed fist.

“You’ll walk with me,” a child’s voice
slurred around the edges,
a statement, not an invitation.

We stand still.

He finds a solid anchor for his crutch
then drags his tangled limbs to follow it.
We move forward just an inch or two.

His name is Tim and he was born again
ducked in the winter river last December.
Three crucifixes hang round his neck
like winners’ medals.

The square is transient space , where every hour
a thousand different purposes collide
and split away. A place to walk across
or cycle through, which only takes a moment.

It takes us half an hour to get across.

We pause.

“ Born again” he mutters , “I’m born again”
over and over.

A child cries out – a yelp of pain –
head -high above the flinching crowd
pigeons whirr like shrapnel.
I watch them swing a circuit round the sun.
“Born again …” Continue reading