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Geoffrey Heptonstall

The Illusion of Stillness

She asks what compares with the rain?
And then by degrees it follows
we remember there is the sun
glistening the vines lately struck by storms.
Whispers of vapour rise 
as if the world were burning.

The season made no difference:
in heat haze, mist or cloudiness
the tree that stood in the field was stark.
Its texture had the look of charcoal.
There were no leaves to green the year.

Soundless, it issued an invitation
to stare at the spectral agony
torn out of nature.
a life taken, by lightning struck.

Where earth is moist there is fire in the sun.
I tread the soft texture with reverence,
cautious imprints of each pace
I must make in my progress.
I am drawn toward heights.

We find no pasture here among the clouds.
Scattered stones would strike the flesh
of barefoot skin on solemn ground.
Shoes make light of the burden.
I ask what compares with the earth
as it moves beneath my feet?
Like a rare bird, the tree hovers
on the parish bounds,
evading loyalties.
It knew its otherness
to be the way of survival.
Certain of one thing only,
the fear we have of dying.

And as children the strange scene
compelled our dark imaginings:
By moonlight it moved, of course,
dancing to the midnight music.
Something could be heard,
a rumour whispered as we watched.
touching the tree turned you to stone.
Its shadows passed the windows of sleep.

The wind that moved the branches
brought the storms that changed our world.
A rain of fire had burnt the soul.
The illusion of stillness fools no-one 
when all that lives has movement.
We ask what compares with the motion 
of the stars in heaven? 
And then there is the sun. 

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