Rye-grass, meadow, saltmarsh. It abrades her ankles, leaves them raw and weary as she walks from a home that smelled of warm bread and lavender and the shrinking of space, the calamity of living. Now, as she goes to the village to work and marry, her home is the travel, the field, the way her feet hurt as she urges them, horse-like, on.
Before the village (where she will perhaps meet a rich boy and have babies and a garden of rampion and mint) is a forest, the kind that is heavy to look at, with a stream slipping through. She enters, hearing the whisper of water weathering the ground, splashing where she steps and soaking her skirts. She stops.
And there is a man.
She didn’t see him before but he is so pale, his veins are blue rivers running through his arms.
“Where are you going,” he says, and she doesn’t tell him
but he nods anyway, nods
on a branch.
“If you follow me,” he says, “you will have fabric like
stars and a bed of moss, and a
laugh to soothe your sleep into
velvet dreams. Follow, but
do not step from the water.”
As he reaches to her, she follows forward through the stream, touching the fog of his fingers,
a pinprick of
And as she walks, the stream follows like a wedding train,
working through her,
a heartbeat, a brush of
It is sweet and,
stepping, she is full and
filled, and ahead is something like the
sun behind an
effervescent veil, a land of
honey, of amber.
Slow and fogged, and with the paradise ahead,
its treasures and hopes, she turns her face away
from the brightness
and stumbles from the stream
to finds herself on a bank, dirt smeared bloody on her skin. It was a dream, she tells herself, and thinks of her dreams before of going to the village to find a husband, a job as a servant. She sets forward through the forest to find the reality of its merchant shops and bright gardens, cobblers and candymakers
but what is there when she emerges isn’t a village.
There are buildings, but instead of thatched shops, they are metal and reach to the sky.
There are gardens and homes but, in the midst of them, are great chrome beasts made of wheels and loud rumblings.
And as she turns back to the forest she sees, from a distance, and with a metallic roar, the top of a tree shudder and fall
by a great force