Two Trees – A Poem For Alex Salmond

salmond tree

And so the Union endures. As a special tribute to Alex Salmond, here’s something by the excellent Scottish poet Don Paterson. I offer no commentary – interpret it as you wish…

Two Trees, by Don Paterson

One morning, Don Miguel got out of bed
with one idea rooted in his head:
to graft his orange to his lemon tree.
It took him the whole day to work them free,
lay open their sides, and lash them tight.
For twelve months, from the shame or from the fright
they put forth nothing; but one day there appeared
two lights in the dark leaves. Over the years
the limbs would get themselves so tangled up
each bough looked like it gave a double crop,
and not one kid in the village didn’t know
the magic tree in Miguel’s patio.

The man who bought the house had had no dream
so who can say what dark malicious whim
led him to take his axe and split the bole
along its fused seam, and then dig two holes.
And no, they did not die from solitude;
nor did their branches bear a sterile fruit;
nor did their unhealed flanks weep every spring
for those four yards that lost them everything
as each strained on its shackled root to face
the other’s empty, intricate embrace.
They were trees, and trees don’t weep or ache or shout.
And trees are all this poem is about.

From Rain (2009).

Find more Don Paterson and buy his books here.

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10 thoughts on “Two Trees – A Poem For Alex Salmond

    Séamus Sweeney
    September 19, 2014 at 07:07

    It’s a great day for Alistair Darling. Six years ago, not a sentence one would have expected to be ever written.

    I kinda wish the No side used this as their campaign song:

      September 19, 2014 at 09:46

      This morning, having seen all I needed to of the news, I turned on my Brennan random music player, and it chose, out of nearly 10,000 tracks, a song by the Scottish band Teenage Fanclub called…. ‘Say No’.

      (The Brennan seems to display this kind of disturbing sentience all the time, although it may be that I only notice it when there is something spooky so there’s a confirmation bias at play.)

      But anyway, well done sensible Scots!

    September 19, 2014 at 09:15

    Well done Brit, a fitting swan song for a busted flush. Salmond seems somewhat in the doldrums this morning, his own constituency having comprehensively (60/40) rejected his doctrine, democracy is the winner here.

    September 19, 2014 at 13:14

    Rationality wins out in the end. When did the world get so boring.

    September 19, 2014 at 14:02

    Watching the lead-up to last night over the past months was like a trip down memory lane. The parallels to what we went through with Quebec were almost eerie. The extravagant, romantic promises of the Yes side v. the panicked dry rationalism of the No team (“We need a song!”). Rhetoric steadily heating up to the point where the choice was between The Land of Milk and Honey and Bog penury. The Yes side taunting and the No side pleading (and privately muttering they should boot them out). In the end, the familiar, dreary status quo nips Arcadia at the post.

    I see from today’s Telegraph that you are already into stage two. A petulant Salmond warns menacingly that it’s by no means over and the No leaders pledge to take speedy advantage of this last chance reprieve to give away whatever it takes to make them all happy, happy happy. ” A Scottish army? Mmm, let’s meet and talk”. We did that with several high profile constitutional initiatives that only succeeded in alienating the publics on both sides and kept the nationalist pot boiling for fifteen years until we almost lost it all in a second round. After that, everyone was too exhausted to talk about it anymore and the nationalist Boomer dreamers in Quebec were gradually replaced by pragmatic generations bored with the whole thing. My advice to Cameron and Miliband? When they come calling, arrange not to be home.

      September 19, 2014 at 14:12

      It seems you’ve well and truly got our number, Peter.

      I suppose a difference might be that Scottishness is surely a stronger and more ingrained identity than Quebecness, so the rational position is that much more vulnerable.

        September 19, 2014 at 14:31

        Are you kidding? Scottishness may be ingrained, but Quebecness is inbred. Plus they have better songs. We only made it because 20% of Quebec is non-francophone.

        Hey, if you want to have a debate about whether the people trying to destroy your country are more noble and admirable than the ones trying to destroy mine, I’m game, but are you sure you wouldn’t rather stick with Darwinism? 🙂

        September 19, 2014 at 15:40


        The French think that the Québécois are nuts.

        • Gaw
          September 20, 2014 at 00:01

          I imported into the UK product made in Quebec. I asked the manufacturer whether he also exported to France and he laughed out loud: impossible, the French would be embarrassed to be seen buying something from Quebec.

      September 19, 2014 at 23:26

      What about the Prairie Province, Peter? I thought that they sometimes had seccesh tendencies.

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