Neil Fulwood - 2
The Expletive Deleted of the Average Briton
The tree GP attended first; pressed
his cold stethoscope to the bark,
listened, wasn’t sure. Sap was sent
to histology; came back inconclusive.
The tree consultant requested
a twig biopsy; had more sap work done;
reviewed a diagnostic imaging report.
Spoke quietly as he broke the news.
The tree nurse ticked the checklist
box by box, the benefits and risks
laid out dead straight. A fallen leaf
was taken for consent. And now
the tree surgeon’s ready to operate –
he’s wearing boots and denim shirt
instead of suit, a lunch tin
where black bag should be the norm.
No sterilised implements. A grubby
pull cord yanked, the stink of smoke
and petrol in the air. Visor snapped
in place and noise to wake the dead.
Keep to the path. You will know
the path by its coating of moss
and wet leaves. It will try
to unfoot you. Three kilometres
of bad camber and changes
in gradient: it has unfair
advantage. No campfires
or ball games. But you will know
the picnickers by their safe proximity
to the car park. Their flasks,
their point-and-shoot snaps
of the lake. No drinking of the water;
no dog fouling. But you will know
the enthusiasm of the dog
unleashed, its happiness at the path
and the acreages of things to sniff.
You will know its muddy paws,
its tongue unfurled in welcome.
Swat the thick of the dirt
from your coat or trousers.
Stout footwear is recommended.
It hangs there, on a sign
lettered in the Seventies,
a word with a fag in its mouth:
depot. A word redolent
of oily patches on broken concrete
and a row of lorries
parked against a clapboard structure.
Tea from a flask, the last
cold dregs flicked out.
Box files on a makeshift shelf
in an office that'd be happier
as a workshop. Punch clock
and girlie calendar, walls
painted in whatever stores had over.
Some vital support service
ticking away in the background.