Poem: The Plum Tree


Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdD3K84oyvI


Preamble: It’s been a busy month-and-a-half with moving house and doing my poetry reading last month, but we are more or less settled in our new home in a small village in Drenthe. It’s beautiful and peaceful here, with some proper woods nearby, where I’ve already enjoyed a few walks. Still, after 11 years of living in Almere – which is by far the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere in my life – it has been a bit of a bittersweet experience to say goodbye. I’m publishing the below poem today to mark the occasion of our house being sold. It’s now transferred and we officially no longer own it. This is a relief in many ways, but also sad, and fragile.

Moving on.
Is supposed to be a good thing.
Perhaps even virtuous.

And it is good for me, too.
But my heart stutters.
In this garden,
on this stepladder,
pruning this plum tree.

My plum tree.
But by the time the fruit has ripened,
it will belong to someone else.

This tree that I have cared for,
and neglected.

These plums that I have eaten on lazy summer days,
these plums I have eaten while my father had a stroke – across the North Sea,
these plums that lay rotting on the kitchen table – while I buried him.
Will no longer be mine.

And somewhere deep inside my childhood
is another childhood
that belongs to someone else.

I find this very difficult to accept.

That I do not own time.
Or place,
or even feeling.

That nothing is as malleable as memory.

And you may look at me
with one of those understanding-but-not-really looks
and give me an indulgent smile,
“Oh you, and your melancholy heart!”

Moving on
is not only gaining but it’s losing.
Moving on
is leaving part of me behind.

A hand print on gnarled tree bark,
a teardrop in the soil,
a laugh shared with my dad.

Though as I stand here,
in this garden,
pruning this plum tree,
feeling tears prick in my eyes,
with withered leaves and spiders in my hair,
comes a comforting thought:

That there is something to be said for
leaving behind
something loved
and beautiful
and breathing
for someone else to make their own.


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