On Souls Wrapped in Bark

On Souls Wrapped in Bark
Published: Jan 26, 2020
Mark Goodwin has a fertile spring of molten wordsmithery pouring out of him, freshly stable one moment, tripping over burning cinders the next. A regular contributor here in story and verse, the tree-climber in him seems to be chanting an ascent — higher, higher! — to souls wrapped in bark.

Sycamore tree, journal of wild culture, ©2020

Sycamore fig tree (Ficus sycomorus), Kruger National Park. [o]



a violinist holds
finely carved

sycamore wood

she presses her chin
to a soft

brown vibration

violin wood glows
as notes stretch so

a violinist climbs
a violin’s


bits of a tree’s
flaky bark

sting her eyes

breeze hisses through
a sycamore’s

-Eve leaves

higher she

climbs higher
she & her

violin’s notes go


at a branch-crux now
tangled twigs cradling

crow chicks

and beyond live
twig-ends & sycamore leaves



Beech tree, by Nick Turner, journal of wild culture, ©2020

Beech Tree. Photo by Nick Turner. [o]



momentarily he takes
leave of loved
ones drops respons

ibilities like
leaves strolls fields un
til an old tree

friend & he re
acquaint he begins
to climb in

search of a
past mind
mark a touch

ing place a part
of a succession of
knots laid

in to a mind’s en
twined paths a
clove hitch cl

       enched its
       rope snug
       round a

beech branch
red poly-
propylene neat

ly tied sap-filled
limbs swayed play
fully by wind rem

embers craft
ing a boy-scout art
efact grafting its

hawser-laid sat
isfaction to smooth
beech bark with a

firm tug a found
ation-knot of a tree
-house that turned

           out too

difficult to
build now em
bedded in a

bulge on a
branch above
that hitch

      ’ll be dust
      y green blen
      ded with wild

strands still
defined but

smudged like an
cient leather braid
on an oss

ified body this
beech is big and
curvaceous healthy

only somewhere a
bove there’s one
limb tourn

iqueted by
his forgot
ten knot to

be red
iscovered now
the beech has

layered in rings
the thick
ness of his hav

      ing passed

through a
boy’s life to a
man’s he climbs

the tree’s
limbs lead
him up

wards with wood
en emb
races he finds

that knot and
with his pen
knife cuts out

a rope of
dust it’s easy a

      sound of fibres

peeling away is
brittle then

             air’s in

grained with a grit
ty scent of fine

      green float

ing powder
and left in

      the bark are

smooth dark
ruts polished

      burns to fit

a finger’s
width cool

      and snug ah

the beech
trees reach
      ing branch

es sway sudden
ly he hears his

      name called a

gain called by a
familiar voice

      his seeker knows

his love of stroll
ing but for
gets to look  

            up into trees


Bur oak, journal of wild culture, ©2020

Bur oak. [o]



my father is a large gnarled oak
but he does not know

his blue steel eyes are all of sky
tight in his sockets
to stare back is to be burned

by sun pure as love

i have tried to tell my father
about his branches
and the air that his leaves breathe

and the nests that his heart house

but he will not have it
that he is oak & sky

he is a man
and oak trees cannot speak

his speaking creaks in the roots
i am as earth wraps round me

but he has no idea
of what he has not said

as the frost clips off
his leaves

it is the sky that brought me up
brought me towards the stars

and it is the sky that sharpens my bones
chisels from each of my calcium wands

tiny moon-white

oak trees each
named me


Oak sapling, journal of wild culture, ©2020

Oak sapling. [o]



She sights the tree between
two huge derelict distribution sheds.
It stops

her as if her husband
suddenly lived again.

A spring oak on the horizon –
mature with dark thick twisting limbs
holding fresh mists of greenery.

If she could remember the word,
she’d utter – miracle. Her children

only know trees as myths.

It’s as if the tree
is balanced

      on a wire

two hollow memorials.

See how she wants so much –
wants to keep the tree.

She puts her nearly-see-through hand
up to the horizon, and cups the tiny oak.
It is impossible to speak of, but
the perfect miniature tree roots
itself into her palm – roots through
her veins, and feeds gently on her blood.

She & her stick-children are in awe
of the oak standing up from her hand.
The light is sprinkled on its leaves as if
green moth-dust clothed it.
And that fresh ancient scent of deep green.
Radiant green again. They weep.

Her son & daughter moan,
then yell no words. But

their breaths shake
the little oak’s limbs. It sways.
And the roots, as they take
the strain and move
in her flesh,





MARK GOODWIN is a poet and sound artist, and also a tree-climber. He lives on a boat in Leicestershire with his photographer partner, Nikki Clayton. Mark has been making poetry for over three decades. He has published six full-length books & seven chapbooks with various poetry houses, including Longbarrow Press & Shearsman Books. Both his books with Longbarrow  – Steps (2014) & Rock as Gloss (2018) – were category finalists in the Banff Mountain Book Competition. Portland: a Triptych, a collaborative work with Tim Allen & Norman Jope, was recently published by KFS. Mark’s next full-length collection – At – is due out with Shearsman in 2020. 



Add new comment