Poem: Mulberries

This poem was written about Sydenham Hill Wood in south London, managed by the London Wildlife Trust. When the Great Exhibition of 1851 was eventually taken down in Hyde Park, it was rebuilt in the place that is now Crystal Palace. They built a railway line through the wood so that Victorians could access the palace, and although it later burnt down and the railway was dismantled, the wood still holds traces of Victorian life. The mulberry tree is all that remains of an abandoned garden in the centre of the woodland.


The mulberry tree
stands alone in the clearing;
it is abandoned.

A starched gardener
placed it there a hundred years before,
when the world came to London
for the great parade.
An elephant stood here, and
over there the Koh-i-Noor
was laid before the gilded eyes
of the rich.

People came and went,
bored by old treasures;

the crystal palace burnt down.

The garden was forgotten,
and the tree grew alone
within woodland shades.
The forest is alive now;
crumbling folly and rusted tracks
all that remain of the Empire,
buried beneath soft earth.

The tree is half black;
dying mulberries eaten
by the nuthatch thief.


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