You never liked the woods, homes of creeping things,
invisible scuttles. You feared the softness
of spiders, their many arms. You would not pick
the blackberries from the bramble, expressed
disgust at the dark juice under my nails
and blotching my palms. You called me a witch
because I read your dreams, explained to you
what your own brain fermented. You loved electric
light and well-scrubbed places, their corners visible,
their ceilings clear, the only sound the purring
of appliances, the heat unreal, no dirt,
no blood and mulch. I crawl and stumble by the dark
water. There are stirrings in the undergrowth,
scurryings, howlings. My place is here, down
among damp bracken, under the white birches,
clothed in midnight and fog. My role is to call
your name, to knock for admittance. The warmth
of your hearth is very far from me.
What can it mean, that silhouette shouldering
past the horizon, darker than the half-light
from which it comes, the road’s slow curve, the hushings
of the trees, which bend and surge like seas,
their black leaves boiling softly, ceaselessly?
And it bears eyes that burn, lighting its way
with a red heat, spilling a garnet fire,
scorching the short, cropped grass, the muddy path,
the dead leaves lying mutely, like dumb hands,
licking my hem with cruel incandescence.
How their gaze climbs! They find their tinder
in my dry skin and my bones’ lengths, their pallor.
How near it creeps, this creature of dusk and the back roads,
and how I ignite and am lost in its caul
of flame, its speechless advance, the dark of its nurturing.
Kitty Coles lives in Surrey and works as a senior adviser for a charity supporting disabled people. Her poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies and have been nominated for the Forward Prize and Best of the Net. She was joint winner of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2016 and her debut pamphlet Seal Wife was published in 2017. www.kittyrcoles.com