Kevin Crossley-Holland
with Year 6 pupils at Allerton Primary School, Immingham

Growing a Tree
Five Songs

1. I’m a sapling

And I want to know the answers.

Why do my leaves move when the wind blows?
Why does the sun shine so brightly
And why does it disappear at night?
Why do children scream and shout?
How and where and when and why?

I want to know the answers.

2. I’ve lived for one hundred years

And I’m beginning to understand.

I’m white. I’m bare. I ache. I’m cold,
My crooked arms wave in the wind.
I’ve seen families fall apart
And people carve their names on my heart.

I am beginning to understand.

A little boy comes to talk to me
But my memory… What was his name?
I like the way the calm young woman
Sits beneath me, painting what she sees.

I am beginning to understand.

3. I was felled

And I screeched and screamed.

I was cut down by that little boy’s dad.
And half my body is still in the ground.
Chainsaw. Axe. Needles ran up and down my trunk
And I was dumped on the back of a truck.
I stared at the willow. I started to cry.
With its long branches it was waving goodbye.

I groaned and moaned.

4. I was carried across the sea
And in a cold ship I lay.

Waves roaring, sap pouring, strapped with rope
To stop me rolling in the hold of the boat.

In a cold ship I lay.

Waves glistening, turquoise, blue crystal,
Gulls shrieking, seaweed and salt.

In a cold ship I lay.


5. I am a gift
And the wind is blowing through me again.

Baubles and tinsel twinkle and sparkle,
And the stars of snowflakes, the snowflakes of stars.
I shine, I gleam, and in the darkness
Shadows stand all around me and marvel.

The wind is singing in me again.

In spring my body blossoms,
In autumn leaves lie over me.
In each turning season, and on every day,
Children laugh and skip, they dance and play.

As the wind is skipping in my leaves again.

I’m singing of memory, and friendship, and joy,
And I’ll live a second time when I die.
I’ll be reams of paper, sheet upon sheet,
Where each of you can shape and grow my poem.

Yes, I’m a gift. And so are you.


Commissioned by the Poetry Society.