The poem is a response to Sibel Gul’s photograph of the catalpa (Indian bean) tree at Rochester Cathedral. At the time of writing the future of the tree hangs in the balance as it split in two on July 6th 2015. The cathedral tree is often referred to as ‘iconic’ and has attracted a campaign to save it.

catalpa tree at rochester cathedral

If trees and cathedrals age at different rates,
you are older in catalpa years
than the fluted towers are in years of stone.
This winter light delineates you in silver,
accenting the scales of your bark,
the clefts where a great limb forks from another.

You seem sturdy, leaning on one prop only,
but since this photo, you’ve split under the weight
of long existence, rallying a city to your aid;
stand on crutches as long as vigour lasts
before you join
the dead that lie in cathedral ground.