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For Alison and Georgia Robson


‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.’ Isaac Newton


The ancient pear tree next door has not been pruned,

I would guess, for at least seventy years,

long before our time here, or the neighbours’.

It is now as large as a medium-sized oak,

with the remains of a magpie’s nest.

Its fruit, in these last days of summer, glow

a ruddy green; are plentiful, bountiful;

inedible, unusable even

for perry cider. The tree does what flora

is meant to do untrammelled – make seeds.


My occasional naps, lulled by the bees

in the ivy, beside our olive tree –

with its rare fruit the size of sheep droppings –

are interrupted randomly by the sounds

of falling pears: the slithering rush through leaves

to thud on the lawn, to thump on the summerhouse,

to gerthwang on something metallic.

Nevertheless our neighbours practise yoga

on the grass under the bombardment, dodging

the erratic proofs of Newton’s physics.


Isaac was born the year the Civil War began.

Soon after he graduated, Cambridge closed

for two years because of the plague. At home,

on the family’s Lincolnshire farmstead,

he split light into its spectrum colours,

developed differential calculus,

and one day noted the apple falling –

while the flocks of sheep grazed on enclosed fields.


My angels are busy on Jacob’s Ladder –

like apples and pears displayed on a barrow –

up the steps from the cellar to the hall,

up the stairs to the long window, from there

to the landing, and the stars. The blind giant

Orion had his servant Cedalion

stand on his shoulders, to guide him eastwards

to the vast healing sun.






© Copyright David Selzer
3 Responses
  • John Huddart
    October 30, 2020

    That is just magical! So rich in observation, reflection, erudition, and playfulness!

  • Elise Oliver
    October 31, 2020

    Loved this! Final verse is reminiscent of Led Zeppelin (just to bring a bit of class to proceedings), vis-a-vis:
    ‘And as we wind on down the road
    Our shadows taller than our soul
    There walks a lady we all know
    Who shines white light and wants to show
    How everything still turns to gold’ (Stairway to Heaven, 1971)

    Also, in awe of olives the size of ‘sheep droppings’. In Hoole? A small rabbit would be immensely proud of mine.

  • Raji Davenport
    November 2, 2020

    Beautifully crafted – gentle and evocative of lazy end-of-summer days. Loved the link to Newton. And my favourite newly discovered onomatopoeia has to be ‘gerthwang’!

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