Wild Court

An international poetry journal based in the English Department of King’s College London

Three poems by Nicola Healey

Photo by Alicia Healey


    Veteran Beech


‘I see a picture that thy fate displays / And learn a lesson from thy destiny’
– John Clare, ‘To a Fallen Elm’


We call it ‘the tree field’, where my sister and I
walk her dog. Surrounded by nothing
stands a solitary beech.
I remember it whole, this lodestar,
but its known silhouette has been marred
since winds amputated a top branch. And,
after a long absence, I find its sturdy trunk hollowed
to a charred shell, ignited by vandals, who seem
not to know what they do. It is being used
as a bin: I peer in and see a gaudy pile
of drink cans and crisp packets, bottles
and cigarettes. It feels intrusive to look,
inspecting like a haruspex. I look away.

Still it stands, its green leaves susurrating.

Ancient trees can withstand becoming hollow:
the decay inside their heartwood
rarely touches the living sapwood.
But I sense an old beginning.

If this tree should fall, it will be like
the death of a sun, and the empty sky
will be unforgiving.





The air is thickening with bird call and echo
like coffee-shop chatter: enveloping but exclusive
conversations. Filling with butterflies,
sun flares and perspiration. Sweet
with violet, primrose and daffodil. I love it

but I also love the clarity of winter – cling
to frosts which encase all of nature,
making a museum or a myth of it, a freeze-
frame blown from Narnia. The brain
can stumble through its poverty of light,
but at least it’s true: the land stripped, irreducible.

Each leaf or petal stirs a memory, as though winter
zipped up the coats of our minds, now unzipping.





When it flows from a gold nib
on smooth white paper, words glisten
with more – more of what could be said –

more care, and possibility.
Its new blood sparks something
that lights something else that speaks

what I didn’t know I wanted to say.
Think of what stays quiet, screened out
by the regime of typing, how it

fires clay before it’s been moulded.
A direct line to the brain, but doesn’t seem to
surge through our veins. Traces of

unfound feeling hang somewhere,
like the cursive tails we so painstakingly
learned to join up, with our hands held.

Our school desks still had inkwells:
their emptiness enthralled –
the silent story it told.

Finger-smudges and graffiti stained
the wood grain with the secreted lives
of girls who had gone before us.

In a handwritten letter, words wear the writer
like scent. Something this sheer
is easy to lose sight of, and then to lose.

Aching fingers have almost forgotten
how to hold a pen. A typed signature,
or blank space, seems so forlorn, unclaimed,

an oxymoron, really just back to ‘X’, your flourish
is unrequired, and some hands won’t know
that a clear inky voice never known is still lost.