Alice Tarbuck: Ogham


The forest is a farce of standing-in.
It fractals into objects as soon as you arrive,
and ruins your instructions, makes your map
as useless as a handful of green needles.
Talk to it, or sing to it, but be specific.
Which bit?
Purlicue or pinebark? Bark or moss?
Beer bottle or the fire stones,
pinecones or the bush you squat in to
relieve yourself; blood-suckers
or sphagnum, or that rabbit hole?
Address the drey, the cool
respectable bend of a fern, the upskirt of tree roots
winking in the daylight. The gurgle of underground
water, sluggish and brown, the furry lichen beards,
great green logging trucks,
the body of a fox beset by mosses, so that
the bones are soft. Is that what they mean
when they tell you the green place brings easing?
The birches that weep, the anemone
escapees from the big estate, what might they
sing to you, if you had different frequencies?
The forest undisclosed is shut,
the path littered with signs, and they all say
please keep to the track, close the gate behind you,
this is not a path, it is a firebreak.

Alice Tarbuck is an award-winning poet and writer. She has taught Creative Writing at the University of Dundee, and is a 2019 Scottish Book Trust New Writer’s Awardee for poetry. Their debut non-fiction book A Spell in the Wild: a year (and six centuries) of Magic is published by Hodder & Stoughton.