by Seán Hewitt

Almost velvet to the hand,
but underneath alive with woodlice.

A fungus blackened by nights of rain
and crouched here in the lower

trunk of an oak. All its shelves
are sinking – the spread of layers

like tar poured and set and now,
again, melting into the soil –

a war-burnt body, its skin blistered
and peeling back to the soft heart –

a tumour on the wood – and I can hardly
bear to touch it – shaking at first, then

stroking it, patting it, kneeling down
and suddenly the tears. Cold, hardened,

the life all dissipated, all over – and this,
I know, is your palm, upturned for mine.

Our parents, when we were young,
teased us, sang nuptial hymns: I did not

realise how far I had walked you
into my life, until your hand let go.