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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 6, Number 3, September 2012

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Dorrie Johnson
Bubbenhall, Warwickshire, UK


Baginton Oak

1600s

Oak forests cover the land. Deer fray the bark. Wild boar browse, buffet the ground. In London, Shakespeare's Theatre burns, is built again in wood from the Sky God’s tree.

In the middle of nowhere
A brown-line shoot grows,
an oakling, silver-barked,
seasons swelling trunk and branch.

1700s

Shouts die, blood dries on wounds, King Charles hides in an oak. Oaks are felled for fulling stocks, beams and planks, their curving branches forming natural ribs for shipwright timber. Young trees are stripped of bark for tanning hides for gloves, for boots or harness.

Oak sapling branches twist,
twigs flower-tipped, spring catkins.
into summer's green.

1800s

Oak is felled for frames of houses, barns and halls, for casks and artists craft or wooden block base for rails for new steam trains. Galls swell on buds, black ink extracted to inscribe on manuscript or testament. Storms hit with sharp forked-fire and oaks attract the spark and flash.

Dark bark fissured,
rough and hard beneath its Lammas leaves
the oak forms a second landmark with the spire.

1900s

Acorns feed wandering pigs in wooded pasture land. In the capital a queen’s enthroned and rules an empire. Boys climb tree heights to sail imaginary seas. Wright brothers control flight; more trees are felled for airport growth and wartime planes—Whitley bombers, Lancasters, Lincolns.

2000s

In Baginton, old now, a hollowed hulk,
branches dying back,
the oak is gnarled, bulbous,
once subject of a proverb no-one knows.


Author’s Note: Baginton oak tree is probably at least 350 years old and one of the oldest trees in the County of Warwickshire, England. It is said that there was a proverb about a boy called Eliot who sat under the tree when he had to make decisions.

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