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Glose: An Old Almond Tree

Roger Bygott


It's only a branch like any other
green with the flare of life in it
and if I hold this end, you the other
that means it’s broken.

From 'The Art of Translation', Adrienne Rich

The dark tree has pronounced all its almonds.
By the sandstone wall its limbs look burnt:
for years those knotted joints and hardwood hands
have held nothing but wind and a brief scent
of the season when blossom descends
like an oracle to bless the river.
We’re drinking tea by the pool. There’s fresh mint
at the edge of the garden. But there it ends.
The conversation drops. That withered finger –
it’s only a branch like any other.

Near the tree is a ruin called Valero,
its top floor row of Moorish arches
have become muted mouths of bricked up windows
as if they are ashamed to shed light on fallen riches.
The broken back of the house, the fading fresco
of palm trees, is a long story condensed to a minute.
From the collapsed space of a room reaches
an iron ladder . Everything has fallen through
a hole in the floor. An olive lies in the grit
green with the flare of life in it.

What can speechless trees prophesy?
They have taken in so much rain and sun
and now become broken crosses on dry
banks of Spanish soil, their bark undone;
white gashes of heartwood bare to open sky.
In all these years I have never
seen your shade so long. Your fibres are spun
by sunlight into a thread to dignify
everything dry and dead. A thread you offer -
and if I hold this end, you the other

we will feel the way wood turns into books.
We look across - wine is on the table,
bottle green glass stands in ice, the corks
still rocking catch the breeze and topple
to the floor. Mouths murmur but no one speaks.
There’s a brief gap in the air - we listen
to the almond tree telling its fable
as it falls onto the earth and cracks.
What moves between us is no longer spoken:
that means it's broken, that means it's broken.

NB: Glose

The glose originated in Spain, where it is known as the glosa. It has two parts,
which are normally written by different authors.

The first part - the texte or cabeza - consists of a few lines which set the theme for the entire poem. Typically this will be a stanza from a well-known poem or poet - although it is perfectly permissible to write your own texte.

The second part - the glose or glosa proper - is a gloss on, or explanation of, the texte. It takes the form of an ode, with one stanza per line of the texte. Each stanza in turn expands upon its corresponding line of texte, and ends with a repetition of it.



Roger Bygott - an artist, photographer and poet, visited the Almassera in 2005 joining Mimi Khlavati's poetry course. He has published 'Verses of Inspiration'amongst many other things stemmng from his connections with the Friends of Western Buddhists.After a period of time living in Spain largely on retreat, he now lives in the Peak District.


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