Old Man’s Beard

Old Man’s Beard – seed heads of Clematis vitalba or ‘Traveller’s Joy’

It doesn’t belong here

but still I see it year after year
taking the lime it needs from the spoil
of a house long gone, so it grows up
and greys the bare hedge in winter.

Men and women lived there once,
perhaps they died there before it crumbled
and it remembers their grey hair
and clothes worn threadbare. It was long ago

that the house fell, but when they seed came
is hard to tell. It was there from the first
time I passed in winter. I always mean to look
when summer comes for the leaves and flowers,

but I never see them. It is passing
that it means to me, things left behind.
Old men, old women, lives like green leaves
that withered before I knew them.

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