* In winter, I scurry along the dismal ground,
I run, from everything and nothing,
I curl and die, as my
body is in crippling coldness,
I drift aimlessly on a dreary breeze,
I land, curl, I wait, I freeze.
* You stand, so still and bold,
You stretch for the sun
and the places you want to be,
In Winter, you're cold, you're bare,
You wait for sunshine, you wait for heat,
You stand, you stretch, sturdy on your feet.
* In Spring, then we are brought together,
You give me life (for which I am thankful),
You give me love (for which I am grateful),
And though I show it in a meagre hug,
I care for you dearly and deeper than love,
And I cherish the Spring, and what it can do,
as I would be nothing without you.
I am a leaf, you are the tree.
Dawn Batsford, aged 17, Moulsham high school, Chelmsford, Essex
On the surface this is a conventional poem. The relationship between a leaf and its tree stands for a human relationship. But this surface is deceptive; a fragile emotional state beneath the skin shows through to make the metaphor more urgent, tragic and resonant.
The jerky movement of the poem is supported b irregular rhymes, establishing a frail, almost neurotic voice in the first stanza. The second stanza admires a strength the narrator cannot share and the third reunites tree and leaf. But in that "meagre hug" is a ring of emotional truth. The narrator is blighted, revealing a dependency beyond love on which their integrity depends.
The final lines might be read as the solution to a riddle but the words take on a more tenuous tone. Rather than resolving the poem into neatness we are left with that frail voice again, a self-knowledge that is generous, touching, and wistful. The poem echoes, disturbing its own moment of recognition.
Dawn Batsford receives Emergency Kit, edited by Jo Shapcott and Matthew Sweeney (Faber). Her poem was submitted by Julia Mead. Graham Mort, a freelance writer and tutor, is TES guest poet for this term. His latest collection, Circular Breathing (Dangaroo Press), is a Poetry Book Society recommendation. Please send poems, no longer than 20 lines, to Friday magazine, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. Include the poet's name, age and address, the name of the submitting teacher and the school address. Or email: email@example.com