When I look back I seem to remember singing.
Yet it was always silent in that long warm room.
Impenetrable, those walls, we thought,
Dark with ancient shields.The light
Shone on the head of a girl or young limbs
Spread carelessly. And the low voices
Rose in the silence and were lost as in water.
Yet, for all it was quiet and warm as a hand,
If one of us drew the curtains
A threaded rain blew carelessly outside.
Sometimes a wind crept, swaying the flames,
And set shadows crouching on the walls,
Or a wolf howled in the wide night outside,
And feeling our flesh chilled we drew together.
But for a while the dance went on–
That is how it seems to me now:
Slow forms moving calm through
Pools of light like gold net on the floor.
It might have gone on, dream-like, for ever.
But between one year and the next – a new wind blew?
The rain rotted the walls at last?
Wolves’ snouts came thrusting at the fallen beams?
It is so long ago.
But sometimes I remember the curtained room
And hear the far-off youthful voices singing.
Oh Cherry trees you are too white for my heart
Oh Cherry trees you are too white for my heart,
And all the ground is whitened with your dying,
And all your boughs go dipping towards the river,
And every drop is falling from my heart.’
Now if there is justice in the angel with the bright eyes
He will say ‘Stop!’ and hand me a bough of cherry.
The bearded angel, four-square and straight like a goat
Lifts a ruminant head and slowly chews at the snow.
Goat, must you stand here?
Must you stand here still?
Is it that you will always stand here,
Proof against faith, proof against innocence?
Oh Cherry Trees You Are too White For My Heart, from Fourteen Poems, by Doris Lessing.
Oh Cherry Trees You Are Too White For My Heart and Fable, two Poems 1959 © Doris Lessing are reprinted by kind permission of Jonathan Clowes Ltd., London, on behalf of Doris Lessing.