I’m waiting for your carcass to be stripped
of all its withered foliage by the gales.
Your leaves were screwed and twisted back in June,
brown long before the autumn colour change.
Leaf-miner larvae worked your seams and veins
and scorched your broad hands from the inside out.
For years you’ve fought this annual onslaught
but bleeding canker and three summer’s droughts
have split your bark in shakes and rails, left you
a weak old lady with the winter flu.

One grey arm lies in the grass already
revealing a filigree of fungal rot.
Your remaining limbs, a risk to life,
will be removed by gung-ho country lads
who never gave up climbing trees and found
this living paid for weed and diesel.
With ropes and harnesses and heads for heights
branch by branch they’ll saw and quarter you,
and when they’re through they’ll take your heart away
but leave a cord or two to fire our stove.
Before they go I’ll lean to count the rings
across your shocked white stump just so I know
how many years you grew upon this bank
providing conkers for the village kids
the first of whom are under soil or burned
to ash themselves and scattered with the wind.