Skip to main content

Return of the Green Man






His wound-up crozier straightens out
tightened springs unwind, releasing
frondy fingers first, tipped with soft new nails

followed by stalk of hand and wrist
then un-stretched arcs of bramble arms
thrown out to grasp and root.

Keratin hardens, new limbs grow
stronger from the making. He emerges
phloem fed, hydrated by xylem

strong-armed in lignin. Rib circled
he inspires, his inflating body
ready to break its bonds

swollen with fresh projections.
Leaves sprout from every crack
jostling. They are drawn forth

these unsuspected members
to find themselves
full of purpose and unruly.

Renewed man is almost ready
to take his leave once more,
once he has learned to walk

and take stock. Firmly rooted
multi-limbed he advances
when you’re not looking

implanting his staff afresh
he leaves the last one, leading
the way to his rightful place

through irrepressible growth.



There are lots of Green Men – so many types, in so many places, in so many ages, with all sorts of different names.

He may be a (normal) head peeping through foliage – when he might have been called Jack in the Green, Puck or even Pan.

But he’s more often thought of as an old carving in a church – of a face with leaves, stalks and stems bursting from mouth, nose and ears.

There are faces with leaves growing from the forehead or sides of the nose, heads whose luxuriant hair is turning into twigs and branches, or beards become leaves, happy and tranquil faces along with tormented and transforming faces that are even part animal.

But this poem encounters him as a whole being – definitely plant, but one with human features.

Bracken and brambles arrived early on, both characterised by mysterious power. They may have been amongst the first on the scene; very likely they’ll be the last.  The one travels determinedly underground, those tough roots pushing forwards, unseen; the other flings its limbs into the air to land and start afresh – both spreading inexorably.  Trees take longer, but are somehow stronger.  Leaves and blossom erupt, as if by magic…

Look away, and you’ll be surprised – like a game of Grandmother’s Footsteps: how they’ve grown, and come closer. Every spring, we’re surprised.  And delighted.

So the Green Man prompts our questions: he has us, no less than our medieval ancestors, marvelling and wondering. Reflecting as they did, on fertility symbols, representations of the great pattern of life and death in which all living materials are recycled, and the close association of human life with plant life.

These may be troubled times, but here we are again with spring (what an expressive metaphorical word!) all around, bringing its spirit of resurrection and explosion of potent fertility, along with the promise of future fruitfulness. 

Whatever the title given to this season, not to say celebration – Beltane, Easter and many another long lost in history – the Green Man sprouts his fresh green shoots, which appear unexpectedly on wood, in stone, through glass, upon clay, perhaps even from flesh.

If we failed to notice, we were busy looking in another direction..

The Green Man has returned.
And lives – again.

Which gives us all hope.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A plague on all these houses

It's a great poem, Lowell's For the Union Dead. I only recently came across it - at least, that's what I thought - but it's been grunting (I choose the word advisedly) away in my head ever since, especially that fourth verse. Behind their cage, yellow dinosaur steam shovels were grunting as they cropped up tone of mush and grass to gouge their underworld garage. It took a little while for me to realise why. Before (I thought) I'd read it, I wrote a poem about the new housing estates springing up round our little town. I was thinking about the various creatures that had lived on the field that was to be covered with houses - sheep primarily - and then those that were to follow. The first were, well, a sort of dinosaur. Here's my second verse: At first it was the one-armed monsters, set free within their caged arena to trundle round, and gently paw the ground, then pile up mounds of earth accompanied by Lego men. I was pleased

Happy Christmas!

Christmas – or if you prefer, Solstice, Hanukkah, or just This Special Time… Stop now.  For a moment, wait. And look.  From here you can see far. In this direction, where we’ve been – the climb, the ups and downs. Now turn around. There before you lies the future.  At the summit of the year there’s time to rest, and be refreshed – let’s gather here, so we may share each other’s company, look forward to the new arrivals, lives to come travelling into this misty landscape, and in our brightness bring to mind those no longer in our group. So drop your rucksack, get your breath back the old year lies behind – for now let’s all enjoy the present gift-wrapped here before us. I’m quite sure this little poem has no great literary, let alone poetic merit, but hey we don’t always have to be polished, clever, neat or profound. Or original. Or elegant. Especially not when you’ve just got to the top of a mountain. But there is a def

The Three Hares

  The Three Hares We continue on our way running, running, running around held together tip to tip so I can hear what she can hear as well as her. And the other follows me in front of her – we are joined up by our ears so we follow, lead and follow running, running, running around we continue on our way. Running, running, running around – no cause for worry – what's to come has already been. The future's past – watch us here – we're going nowhere – the last is first and first is last. Our present moment sees us still although we seem to race – running, running, running around we continue. On our way running, running, running around hearing your persistent questions – why do you keep on asking? We cannot tell you any more. May you share your senses and find soft silence at your centre which is so close, while you go on running, running, running around. The turning of the year, with the various thoughts about the past and the future that c