A Seasoned Lover

Photo showing the installation of the poem 'Smokebush - A Seasoned Lover'. The banners are in front of the smokebush and reach around in a fan shape.

A Seasoned Lover is poem 7 on the Westonbirt Arboretum Autumn Trail 2017.

The audio version of this poem was read by Luke Roarty.

A Seasoned Lover

Spring is lured by your hennaed hands
which slip through bangles of silvered dew
on arms kissed by Summer’s candyfloss.
Your purple eyes promised Autumn
a lipstick-drenched embrace.
But you served red wine laced with frost
and lied bare faced, Winter’s lover.


From the collection 'Conversations with Trees'.

© Marchant Barron, 2017.

Next poem: Beech Book


Marchant's Notes on 'A Seasoned Lover'

This small smokebush (Cotinus coggygria) lends itself to a short, intimate poem. I wanted this poem to be about smoke, truth and lies. Smoke hides the truth, veils we knit of white cotton clusters. I saw this bush luring the seasons with its beauty. My first line suggests a lie using word play: “Spring is lured by your hennaed hands” – ‘lured by’ sounds like ‘lie’. When I wrote I explored how ‘lies’ can be suggested with associated words like ‘slipped’ and ‘promised’. I also wanted the words to hiss, snake-like, as they were read.

The smokebush has purple leaves which are eye-shaped and ‘purple eyes’ sounds like ‘lies’. In summer, the bush is covered in panicles of pink flowers that resemble smoke but reminded me of candyfloss. “Purple, when combined with pink… is associated with eroticism, femininity and seduction.” The leaves turn wine red in autumn and when the flowers drop the remnants of the panicles can be covered with a hoary frost: a spider’s web of lies.

I researched poems about lies and truth.

“Man is not what he think he is, he is what he hides.” – Andre Malraux.

“pitiless lies they wove between their two bodies while they failed to sleep …” – Adrienne Small, Silences.

“Truth, rising from the bottom of her well, looked on the world, but, hearing how it life returned to her seclusion horrified.” – Rudyard Kipling, A Legend of Truth.

“’Truth,’ said the traveller, ‘is a breath, a wind, a shadow, a phantom … never have I touched the hem of its garment” – Stephen Crane, Truth.

“Beauty is truth and truth beauty; that’s all/ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know” – John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn.

“When my love swears that she is made of truth/ I do believe her, though I know she lies” – William Shakespeare, Sonnet CXXXIII.

I found a number of poets who used nature and trees as metaphors for deception:

“Her radiance invites and destroys/ Its perfect petals/ A hidden masterpiece/ Lures its prey with scent and sweet …/ Closing now, the green eye of Spring/ Hiding her decay under a frozen mantle” – Macklin Mackenzie, Nature’s Deceit.

“But my earthen centre, cold as December/ Felt the roots of your lie …/ Each branch a delicate deception” – Kali Schafer, The Liar’s Tree.

“On branch of learning tree/ Her red hair roping me/ My arms arrested, twisting” – Ormond, Temptress.

“And when the spates of Autumn whirl the gravel beds away you can see their faithful fragments, iron-hard in iron clay.” – Rudyard Kipling, The Land.

“Autumn is a heartless bitch,
a seductress with royal golds and harlot reds.
Sultry, smoky scent arouses as it
floats through the crisp air,
intoxicates, as her blustery wind
rakes your eyes and tousles your hair.
She snakes her way
deep into your soul
while entombing the shells
of broken flowers in leafy graves,
squashing spring's lush desires.
Autumn spews sweet lies
from her Indian Summer lips
while her harvest moon hangs low in the sky,
and she laughs at winter's impending, icy kiss.” – Bex, Autumn is a Heartless Bitch.

“There is a Smile of Love/ And there is a Smile of Deceit/ And there is a Smile of Smiles/ In which these two Smiles meet” – William Blake, The Smile.

“The reality of the other person lies not in what he reveals to you, but what he cannot reveal to you. Therefore, if you would understand him, listen not to what he says, but rather to what he does not say.” ― Kahlil Gibran (quote).


Silkwood Trail Display Board

By Ben Oliver

A smoking finish! The autumn colour of the smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria) is hard to beat.

The name comes from the finely divided plumes of flowers that form a smoke-like haze during the summer. As the season changes these fade to a beautiful smoky grey, which is joined by a visual feast of colour of fiery yellows, reds, peaches and purples.