Mike Barlow

Consulting the Mulberry

whose buds refuse to break, clenched against
late frosts, unseasonal winds – the mulberry
standing on its own weathered dignity.

It does not intend to budge yet, to give an inch
of promise, betray its sap, what it knows
in its gnarled limbs and mossy sleeves.

I listen, how the wind plays chinese whispers
beside the path, how twigs-ends
scratch away scribbling in the air.

I listen for an answer though I’ve not yet asked.
I duck by and it tangles with me, but won’t say –
elective mute, holding its counsel.

The stain of lovers’ blood on its berries,
the juice of its leaves, decoctions of bark,
centuries as landmark and meeting place,

all the ways we think of its kind
brought up short. Weather or disease?
Mid May and we’re on edge, this tree and I.

Mike Barlow has won a number of competitions including the 2006 National Poetry Competition. His first full collection, Living on the Difference (Smith|Doorstop 2004) won the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition and was shortlisted for the Jerwood Aldeburgh Prize for Best First Collection. He has since published two more full collections and a number of pamphlets. Amicable Numbers (Templar 2008) was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice. His latest pamphlet is Some Kind of Ghost (New Walk Editions 2018).