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.