I made my mark on them.
Impressed by centuries, catkins and burs,
The Borough of Stockport named a street for me,
And declared they would
Preserve my wood
From deliberate harm.

They made their mark on me.
Two lovers scratched each other
Into my smooth, steel-grey bark;
My gargantuan stature scarred
By their passion.
I wear their hearts on my silvery sleeve.

ROWENA ROBERTS | Common Beech | Stockport, Lancashire

Life’s a beech

Every year I watch my beech nuts bounce uselessly off the sap-stained roof of the Ford Focus below.

Once upon a time they might have graced the tables of French gentlefolk, pressed into rich oils and drizzled liberally over fresh salads the likes of which this Stopfordian hamlet has never seen. They could have plumped the bellies of pigs and poultry or been ground into a fake but chic coffee substitute for local cafés.

Had I lived to stretch my limbs in High Wycombe in centuries past, the fine, straight grain of my pale cream wood would have found its way into a bodger’s hovel, there to be carefully steamed and honed into the elegant legs of a laid-back Windsor chair, destined to support the equally elegant ladies of London town.

Wise women of the woods may have used my tar to soothe the irritations of the afflicted: an expectorant for chronic bronchitis, a balm for itchy skin. And they may have carved a slender wand from my branches to open communications with venerable gods and goddesses, finding guidance in times of need.

I could have seen the world, undertaking seafaring journeys under the feet of adventuring sailors; perhaps some would have met their demise at one of my straightened edges, as a swashbuckling pirate ordered them to “Walk the plank!”

Further back, at the dawn of the written age, I might have held the secrets of ancient symbols: the first literature of Europe, inscribed in Sanskrit upon my soft, smooth bark, helping wisdom reach downwards and outwards like far-spreading roots through the generations.

Even today, countless famous chefs could count upon me, as the perfect base for slicing and dicing upon a smooth, odourless, flavour-free chopping board.

And lucky huntsmen could smear my tar upon the trunks of other trees, its strong odour quickly attracting the curious nose of a mighty wild boar; my scent its final living sensation.

But then, upon my bark I feel their fingers. Hidden in the long stretch of my shade, they giggle and whisper secrets that only they and I will know. And I wonder whether I will see these children grow tall and strong, like many others before them. 

And I think of the stories heard and the dramas witnessed in two centuries of living on this village street. And I think there may be worse places to be.