Not Yet

Photo credit: melodi2 from
My father said he'd have to cut the tree down, 
It was so high and broad at the top, and it leaned
In towards the house so that in wind it brushed
The roof slates, gables and the chimney stone
Leaving its marks there as if it intended to.

We said, don't cut it yet, because the tree was so full
Of big and little nests, of stippled fruit.
In spring and summer it spoke in a thousand voices,
The chicks upturned for love, the birds like fishes
Swimming among the boughs, and always talking.

And then a day came when the chicks woke up.
Love was all over, they tumbled from their nests
Into the air, ricocheted from a leaf, a branch,
Almost hit the ground, then found their wings
And soared up crying, brothers, sisters, crying.

Then the nests were vacant. Now we must cut the tree,
My father said. Again we begged, not yet,
Because with autumn the freckled fruit began
To turn to red, to gold, like glowing lamps
Fuelled with sweetness filtered from the soil

And scent that was musk and orange, peach and rose.
And when they dropped (they grew on the topmost branches,
Could not be picked, we took when it was offered)
We wiped them clean and sliced out the darkening bruise
Where they'd bounced on the yellow lawn, by then quite hard

With winter coming. The fruit were so much more than sweet,
Eve fell for such fruit and took Adam with her:
No serpent whispered, no god patrolled the garden.
Only my father. Again, not yet, we said, remembering
What winter had to do with our huge bent tree,

Once it had got the leaves off. We knew the hoar-frost
Tracery and the three-foot icicles
And how it simply was, the December moon
Lighted upon it and hung in its arms like a child.
Not yet, we said, not yet. And my father died,

And the tree swept the slates clean with its wings.
The birds were back and nesting, it was spring,
And nothing had altered much, not yet, not yet.

~ Michael Schmidt

My time has not yet come either; some are born posthumously. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

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