Five Poems

Mandy Haggith

Photo Credit: ccdoh1/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)


Lynn’s brush
is delivering a foxglove,
a vixen
birthing a cub,
lick by lick,
onto the paper.

Hush settles.

Lynn’s brush
is smoothing the surface
until the foxglove
is perfectly reflected
in the still pool
of the page.


Tree fern (Dicksonia antarctica)
for David Sandum

Is it you I hear, here in fernshade,
showing me how the stump has grown
from scales, each fanned and fallen year
etched so we won’t forget?

We won’t forget. I come and go
with my weakening grief. You reach out
from a hockey-stick trunk, unfurl
a fiddler’s joie-de-vivre, let work drop away.

Drop away below. Here, light
is caught, sequestered, treasured,
shared in silver-backed shadows.

I hear your voice (‘Better get on’),
see how we shall carry on,
follow the guiding arrow of a frond.



an onshore breeze
discussed in whispers
by twisted pines

missing my mother
hush say the pines
we understand

listened to the pines
dancing with wind all night
not sleeping at all

I perfect the art
of pining
under quiet pines



Robin in the rowan
casts snippets of gossip,
a crystal commentary
on this blue morning.

Hoar melts on rushes.
Frogs and newts splash in the pond
as if they haven’t heard
the forecast of frost.

Great tits and blackbirds flutter
the way people walked the marches,
boundary checking,
territory testing.

Badger, jaunty wood-snuffler,
you turn your head
and your bright black-button eyes
seem unafraid of me.

All of this
makes me feel



The days are short, nights long.
Sun drops from below cloud.
Low-angled light


Already the tide
has reached its nadir,
lapping, lapping at the rocks of the year.

pencilMandy Haggith lives in Assynt, Scotland, and teaches Literature and Creative Writing at the University of the Highlands and Islands. Her books include four poetry collections, most recently Why the Sky is Far Away (Red Squirrel Press 2019), a tree poetry anthology, a non-fiction book about paper and five novels. Email: hag[at]

Five Poems

Mandy Haggith

Photo Credit: Alex Schwab/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)


how still
still they stand

They have no rustling, fiddling leaves. They are poised. Calm. Open to the sky’s endless moods. Pumping quietly, breathing in what we expire. Perhaps preparing to dance. In their homeland they burn. They take sanctuary here, finger the breeze tenderly, tentatively. They have come with their fear and hold it like all parents. They cannot let it go. They know what happens in the world. They carry part of their forest here. They bring Gondwanaland. They give us the past.

how they stand
still stand

Untarnished by our wonderings, they know no why at all. They embody one how and two wheres. But all the whens we can imagine and more are in the needles of just a single branch. Each is a treeful of answers to the only question worth asking. I ask it over and over. They answer with whorl upon whorl of time, and all the answers are the same. Now and then. Now, and then. Now. And then.

they stand how?
they stand still


Coco de Mer — Lodoicea maldivica

This is monkey Mojo’s hot house.
It’s tropics in a box.
We bathe in the steamy green,
dining on sea-coconut jelly
from a coconut bowl with a coconut spoon,
thatching our roof with palm leaves.

It’s a jungle of silence,
no breeze to tease the leaves to sound,
no insect whine, no bird calls from the canopy.
Just a flowering ginger, attended by an ant
and monkey Mojo whispering
his eerie, lush, lush, hush.


Greenhouse denial

‘Most of the things here are fake’,
says a boy with a big plastic gun.
His father remonstrates, ‘No, they’re not.
It’s the Botanical Gardens. All the plants
are natural. That’s the deal.’

The boy takes aim at a cycad.
Since long before the dinosaurs
its kind has survived extinctions,
earthquakes, meteors—it’s very real.
‘Fake,’ he says—and fires.


Pitus withami

John Playfair, ‘The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time.’

Out of fossil depths
a 320-million-year-old tree
hauled up from a carboniferous swamp
perches on this precipitous edge of time’s ravine.

I am daring myself to peer down into the abyss
giddy with the vertiginous height
of this fleeting moment
of one brief life.



a tree’s shadow on snow

the tree itself

words about a tree


Mandy Haggith is a writer and environmental activist living in Assynt, in the Scottish Highlands. Her poetry collections include letting light in, Castings and A-B-Tree, a celebration of the Gaelic Tree Alphabet written while poet in residence at Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens. She is the editor of Into the Forest, an anthology of tree poetry. She teaches literature and creative writing at the University of the Highlands and Islands and also writes novels and plays. Email: hag[at]