Dicksonia Antarctica


The Tree Fern

I once had a Tree Fern
(Dicksonia Antarctica)
For many, many years my
First view each morning
From our upstairs window.
Beautiful, sweeping fronds
So elegant in light breeze.
I took care each winter to
Wrap the crown, protect
From frost and bitter winds.
One spring it still stood tall
Yet life had slipped away.
As we laid it down, I cried.
The surprise was just how
Deep and far the earth-roots
Held the ground. Resisting
Force, hiding, like grief
To slow their loss of being.


The Learned Pig



Much has passed unnoticed
Beating hearts. Mine, yours
Those nearby footsteps, the
Steady, ordinary breathing
Necessary songs, the veins
That remain in quick flesh.
Absence. It grips what is real
Vital pains, exposed by grief
Through death. Mine, yours
The nothing, nothing silence
That roams to stun its prey.


The Learned Pig


I’m Dying, Perhaps Today

Listen well, in this way of love.
Learn. Remember. It is about me.
If you’re concerned, do get help
With whatever you may see.

Take a break, keep your strength
Protect the space you form around.
Search for memories, music plays
Find peace in beautiful sounds.

Be sure to connect, family, friends
Gadgets, social, news, press ‘send’.
Bring the children, let them choose
To see it’s natural, share the end.

I’ll need to sleep, quite a lot!
And my ramblings may surprise
Have no fear, it’s quite ok
Mystery’s part of being wise.

Important words, perhaps our last
‘I’m sorry’, ‘thank you’, ‘I love you’.
Or sit with me, just hold my hand
There is much more in silence true.

I may die when you’re away
Please, don’t fret, it’s quite ok
Time is time, death is death
It may be meant to be this way

Like the way my breath will falter
My throat to make odd sounds
Be reassured, this is the way,
The ending comes around.

Now, be brave and say ‘goodbye’
When it seems my time has come.
You must accept I’m dying now.
I’m free to go. You carry on.


The Learned Pig


Header image is an illustration of an athyrium filix-femina, more widely known as a common lady fern, from Prof. Dr. Thome’s ‘Flora Von Deutschland’, published in 1903. Via Biodiversity Heritage Library


This is part of RHYTHM, a section of The Learned Pig devoted to exploring rhythm as individual and collective, as poetic and biological, and the ways that rhythm dictates life. RHYTHM is conceived and edited by Rachel Goldblatt.


The Learned Pig


Phil Isherwood

Dr Phil Isherwood has been volunteering since 2010 as the ‘hospice poet’ – writing poems inspired by conversations with patients and by their creative work in the Creative Therapy Department at Bolton Hospice. He was awarded his PhD at the University of Bolton for ‘Numinous Connections: Poetry in the Hospice’ in July 2015. Earlier poetry work has involved writing workshops in mental illness recovery settings (community arts and hospital secure units) and at a brain injuries centre during his part-time studies for an MA in Creative Writing completed in 2005. Phil is also a church leader at Sports Village Church in Leigh, Lancashire (a CofE ‘Fresh Expressions’ outreach).