3 poems by Jonathan Humble


Misplaced upstart sycamore,

shooting from damaged concrete.

What drives such green confidence,

sprung as you are from wayward keys,

late buffeted by autumn elements

and the caprice of a council leaf blower?

Flying against reason,

stubbornly mocking the odds and gods

with rude and purposed growth,

some imperative demanding vigour

as if you’re earmarked for higher service,

out of reach and unknown 

to this observer.

When you become fixed,

will you stop and take breath?

Will you then regret your roots?

Should we consider relocation now,

free from a cemented aggregate

destined to limit lofty plans?

I offer my services, lost tree.

I have a spade.


The shed was an apex all-wood

home-built construction,

erected that furnace of a summer

when we burnt in the shade

and our feet turned to leather,

a backdrop of screaming swifts

swooping like mad dot banshees

in the forget me not blue.

We stood back and admired

the woody quality of its sturdiness,

overlooked the imperfections;

worth the blisters and swearing,

seed drawers alphabetically labelled,

garden tools hanging in place,

as we toasted our cleverness

and soaked in the homebrew.

Beginnings then followed:

new this, new that, till the shed

became part of the scenery

while the expert moved in,

ostensibly preoccupied en route,

unnoticed, overwintering in a crack,

casing the joint for suitability,

tasting the wood like a connoisseur.

Then as we prepared for the year,

quietly, purposefully, she graced our space,

moved in, gnawed, chewed, sculpted,

moistly applying the axioms of Euclid,

compound eye, to mandible, to shed,

constructing a near-spherical beauty

while laying dynastic foundations

we felt privileged to observe.


Thoughts trapped in bubble wrap,

as the wind becomes muffled

and all progress stops.

Two thirds so far and no farther;

a shadow rigid against the render.

Time frozen, like a seized up mechanism,

as the aching in arches grows

and calves spasm in protest.

Panic rises with the pounding in a neck,

with hands gripping aluminium

and legs locked on one rung too far.

Along with any feeling in dead fingers,

a fool’s confidence in early steps has gone,

reality dawning in the prospect

of a concrete experience.

The ground beckons below:

come fail an impact test, it whispers.

Everything lost in an instant,

the truth of one move left;

waiting to kiss the pavement forever.

About the contributor

Jonathan Humble is a deputy headteacher in Cumbria. His poems have appeared in a number of anthologies and other publications online and in print. A collection of his work, Fledge, will be published by Maytree Press in the summer of 2020.

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