A poem from “Fragments”

INTO THE GREEN

 

From the green they came,

Crawling, creeping, crumbling leaves.

With long fingers, spindly and thin,

They touched, pinched, pulled, scratched.

Strength redundant, they lift and drag, many voices, scrabbling feet.

To the green, to the places of tree and root they go,

Tangled, trunks, creeping tendrils.

They swarm like ants, people of tiny stature,

Faces green, bodies green.

I sit upon a log, my wits deserting me,

The sky bleeding into crimson, clumsy dusk.

They are silent, their many voices hushed,

Their tiny fingers still,

Their feet shuffling no more.

They are quiet and my breath is silent,

Fearful of the sound of my own lungs and heart.

They sing, chatter, dance.

Then they tell tales, stories, poems.

They talk of the deep woods,

Of the glens and glades.

They poke and prod me with fingers and twigs,

They regale me with rampant, boisterous blessings.

 

“We are many,” they sing, “We are the green people of the woods, the guardians of leaf and tree. We hold magic within the coal of our brains, and inspiration within the honey of our voices.” I close my eyes,

I try to close my mind, but I cannot.

Pointy ears, pointy noses, pointy chins, pointy heads.

Jagged teeth, jagged words

 

Tapping, tripping, tattered cloth, tallow lanterns.

Soaring voices, clammering hands.

They spoke from the green

They spoke from the trees,

Bark sking, leaf hair.

 

“We are old, weary, wizened. We troll about the woods, we gather the things that are fresh, bright and sweet. We sing of the owls and ride upon the beetles’ back. We are ancient, our blood is pollen, our skin rough with wear.”

 

They dance around me,

Hand-in-hand,

A ring of moving bodies, skipping feet.

 

You shouldn’t be here,” they glare with twinkling eyes. “You invade the green, touch the moss of our kin. Why are you here?”

 

I have no answer, I am struck by the prancing, tiny people,

Smitten by the coloured lanterns that hang from branch and twig.

 

“Stand tall, run fast, leap high, think swiftly.” They chorus. “Jig with us, sing with us, rest with us, live with us. Dream our dreams and touch our spirits. Sleep in our shades and gather our roots. Dance with us, drum with us, let us prick you with our words and cut you with our voices.”

 

And then they stop; palms to the darkening sky, faces uplifted, eyes closed.

 

“Send him to him,” a single voice rises. “Send him to the tree. Touch his eyes and pull out his pupils. Cut out his tongue so he can never tell what his deceiving orbs have seen.”

 

“Use him,” a woman shrieks, “Bond him with magic, make him work. Rest away his cares with sweat and toil, for his kind are evil, loud and brute. His kind are pale as rotting thoughts and noisy as dieing days.”

 

They dance again,

Prancing in the light, shadows eerie and horrid,

Long and elongated, spindly and mean.

 

“We will do things, one, two, three. We will say things, one, two, three. We will take him, show him, kill him. We will use his flesh for games and his bones for toys. For he has trespassed into our green and must pay!”

 

“Who are you?” I ask,

 

“We have told you. We are the wrinkled wise, the guardians of nature. Be wise and listen, or we will fill your ears with moss and mud.”

 

“What have I done?”

 

“You have seen us, heard us. You have trampled on our green and given offence.”

 

And then they sang, sweet and soothing tones that touched my soul and sent me sleeping.

They sang of wonders,

Of wells and weird-folk.

They sang of tall trees and dark places, and ancient memories.

They sang with glorious, golden, gleaming notes.

 

“In the green, in the brown of the world. In the mossy leaf we lurk. In the marrow of the trees we sit, in the creeping dusk we wander.”

 

Then they took me,

Dragged me,

Hauled me.

They took me with their mighty numbers to a huge oak.

Then he came,

The king of the green,

The man of leaf and wood.

He stood tall before me,

Eyes kind,

Face moss and leaf.

I bowed my head and breathed the sweet air of flowers and scented balms.

 

“Some keep, some sow, some reap. Some hear the mingling songs of rough and smooth. Others listen to the rain and the wind and hide their ears. Some look upon the green woods with wonder and awe, others look upon it with trepidation and despair.”

 

He said, the chattering, singing creatures silent, eyes downcast.

 

“Jack in the green, green in the man. Spheres in the heavens, spirits in the mist. Sprites in the trees, fairies in the petals. Gnomes in the earth, salamanders in the fire, sylphs in the air, undines in the water. You in the..?”

 

He fastens his green eyes upon me,

My Eyes cast downwards,

Pupils bright,

Longing for faraway places, seeking sanctuary in the clamour of cities and friends.

 

“I don’t understand,” I say, mind a mess of moist jelly.

 

“Jump over the moon, climb the tallest tree, swim the deepest river. Hear the sweetest music and touch the blessings of a glimmering sunset. I am the man, they are the children of the green.”

 

He nods towards the tiny sitting creatures,

Long fingers laced between long toes,

Long lives lived in the sanctuary of ancient woodland.

 

“We will let you go, let you walk out of the woods and back to your sheltering womb of yonder-thoughts. We will not trap you, hide you, encase you in bark. We will not slip you into oblivion, cover you in moss and savage seeds. We will love you, show you the secrets and let you know the rhymes. We will do all this if you answer a question.”

 

I am scared,

My mind skitters like cotton threads in currents.

I nod my head and see the children of the green rise in unison.

 

“What is love?”

 

They chant together,

The low voice of the man joining them in triumphal harmony.

 

“God?”

 

I offer, eyes moist, sky black, lanterns bright.

Trees sway, leaves tremble, oak creeks.

Somewhere a valley arrives at a ridge,

Somewhere a treasure born of bold stars twinkles.

Deep in the woods dark things shift,

Shambling footsteps,

Hushed whisperings.

Lights twinkle,

Shadows dance.

A bride is given an apple,

An apple is given a bride.

Images run in my mind,

Pointy faces, leering,

Laughing mouths,

Tiny sharp teeth.

Then kindness comes,

Kindness washes away menace with a shrug of good will,

An the songs are bright,

The faces beautiful.

 

“What is god?”

 

The green man asks.

 

“Nature.”

 

I say,

Grace and honour halting harmful will.

 

“Yes.”

 

He smiles,

Teeth of wood.

 

“Nature is wise,” he smiles again.

“Nature is kind, hard and gentle. Nature hurts us and nurtures us, chides us and guides us. Prickling points of perfect peace alongside dazzling darts of potent pain. I am nature, I am god. You are one of my children, though you know not the green. For the green is sacred, your eyes are humble. The green is glory, dark and spiteful. Be careful friend, walk wisely on the paths. Do not lose your way, for your way will never find you.”

 

And I am pushed with gentle hands.

I am prodded by soft fingers.

I fee love,

I feel the tranquil realisation of an enigma and a gift.

I walk in the thick green,

I breathe the night air,

Sweet and nurturing.

And then I am on the path,

Hard beneath my feet.

The lanterns are gone,

The shadows are but trees,

And I am alone.

 

“We are the children of the green, we are the eyes in the dark. We hide in the leaves and touch your dreams. We are the children of the green –our names are many. Holly and mistletoe, oak and berry are our homes. Be careful in the dusk, be wise in the woods, lest a tiny hand touches your face and takes you to the oak. The oak of ages, memory and judgment.”

 

All text copyright BJ Edwards
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