Snow covered the town, and murmurs.
Unease, downcast eyes, a rumour
you were back in the holding
where the song thrush is mute,
where a path spills like yarn to the clearing.
The fetid black leaf and the bracken.
The crackle underfoot. The weird cabin.
It gaped from the white like a lunatic’s face.
Stench of ripped squirrels; torn birds;
stripped critters hung from the awnings.
The windows framed in inches of dust.

I remember the night they were lit from within
by a grim theatre. You in the corner,
trembling, hunched: an alchemist by candle-light.
Your changing:
landslide of back,
splay of your hands,
that terrible crack.
Your spine like an abacus thrown down the stairs.
Your body went right off its tracks.
It was only with the sound that I bolted.
tower of howl

and the morning a century away.
You woke to bloodied fowl.
Begged me to harbour you,
chain you in my basement.
Fool that I was, at first I swooned
to your wild streak.
But even then I could imagine the corpses,
clamour at my door, baying, the torches…
I exiled you to the heart
of a far-off wood,

and made this town my haven.
Now, I favour men with bald, soft skin,
the homely, the bookish, the broken.
Clean shaven.
There’s an art, you see, a method
to this courting, this whoring,
this ladder of cold fucks.
Each tryst brings a gift –

the silver-smith:
a cool clasp of bullets like kisses.

The sheriff’s
left a gun by my bed.

The locksmith’s
barred up my pad like a fortress.

So not this time.
Be gone and repent!
Not this time
with your spoor and your scent.
With the hair on your hands: triumphant,
The hair on your palms:


Part of The Learned Pig’s Wolf Crossing editorial season, spring/summer 2017.

Cover image: Lucas van Uden, Winter Landscape with Hunters, oil on canvas, first half of 17th century


The Learned Pig


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