Published by Gothic Nature Journal.

Please note: this extract may contain language that some might find offensive.

I’m out in it, I’m wetted, I’m soaked, I’ll rip myself in shreds across the sky, come pelting, shrieking in the wind I’m ancient modern I’ll sing the very last hymn number

666                 or is it 111?

Lawks, who gives a fuck. Go to your beds, all of you; the world, darkened, is for night creatures only. Strange, it is, under night skies. Broad-leafed plants are slimed skin, squat toads. Hedges are bare bones, stick-ribs.

Look up, search for the moon but you won’t find it; its pale round hides in cloud that seeps in thin, pulled stretches. I’m sharp-cold in this air where dark murk grows, turns trees to dark twisted sticks. I pace my animal spoor in stone. Owl cry, then again, over field – and answered: two then, in secret flying.

Night shrinks. Turn, turn again, peer into dense black. Imagine: the tree becomes a figure. It steps out: stretched skin, guttural cry. Closes in-

                                                                                                   -the darkness will cocoon me. I’ll be noiseless, shadow-shaped – next car that comes, I’ll squat, bare my arse in its headlights.

Such stories, in the dark!

Last night I was out in fog. The hills folded me in, till I was lost in blurred landscape, muffled. Headlights burnt the trees to stark black stripes. Then I was disappeared once more in wood smell, smoke air.

            Fog-cloaked, wyrd, I could do, and do, and do. On the path, I saw a dog – or wolf? Black fur, tongue out, chasing. I ran like a rat scatting! Backed my rump into the hedge like a bird holed up; squatted to leak my piss into leafmulch. And all the while the fog felt at my face, my cheeks, my chin. Its cold breath mixed with mine. I gasped in fog, felt it finger my own sweet cunt till I was clotted and crawling, my wet leaves spread, my treebark dark and streaming. I slid edgeless into thick air.

Afterwards, I heard the wolf’s howl, saw three deer cross the path. Their breath was mist. The air cleared; the sun broke its passion redly on the hill-  

                                                                                                -today the sky presses grey; I’ll buckle under its iron. There’s malice in the wind that slices me, cuts through the gritted hawthorns with their bitter, shrivelled berries like so many pursed lips, their cruel spikes. Last summer’s grasses fly banshee shreds from these sharps. Soil here is peat-black, plough-turned to reveal dark hearts.

Let the years take their time. Drive, incessant rains! Scour, heartless winds! Soon enough, our ghosts will push their tatters though the churned mud. How the soil clags at my bones! It’s in my deeps. Yes I’ve felt this earth heave, call clicking beetles, sliding worms to work at its designs and all the while I call out against these hardening irons – for sure, I’m pinned even as I crouch beneath these scrambled twigs or fly, crazied in the haunting wind oh I’m darkly mooded. My mind’s on death and flames at the stake I’ll split, rant my blood into the rain that’s surely coming yes as surely as I conjure it-

   -to burn! I’ve watched blood bubble in its boil, fat running from the flesh to fuel the pyre. A hand is raised; the fingers curl; skin’s crackled on the bone. Hold your fingers above a flame, if you can. Now dream of this, a million times more – then more, still and you’ll come closer – and there’s Cranmer, thinking to stuff his right hand into the flames before all else and die without a scream? I think not. He sobbed and squealed like all tied at the stake.

Better to bury than burn, you might say. In soil then: a thousand, thousand creatures to dismantle, from rats which pull at bruise-dead flesh to woodlice working in the damps and in between, the threads of worms and legs of ants and centipedes. Until our bodies are but bone, laid out in awful expression of our end.

Peer below the soiled tops and here – and here – we lie, all of us. Bones last, and in the end, surfaced, they tell. Look there: an ancient death. There’s the skull laid sideways, jaws wide in everlasting cry. How did she die? Look closer – how many centuries has she nurtured that small nest of bones within her own bone cradle? In what pain did she go to her end, babe undelivered, body stoppered with the flesh of her own infant? Yes our bones remain; we hold our stories close through deepest time.

D’you hear me call – d’you hear me knocking at the crust? Light, light these bones are. See my fragile, gravelled cap, my eggshell plates in dust – how thin between your gentle fingers they would run. But pocked and dinted, pounded, crushed – my storylies in this, that left these bones forever wracked, this jaw in its eternal screaming gape. For I was so untymely murthered-

                                                                                                                                                   –but watch me twist grind claw and render stones –

out, I’ll out to fly from this keeping earth, dig out our cruel accounts, spread them through the vasts, from times of mine to yours-

My mood’s turned black as night. I hide in earth, in timeless, private light; I thicken into dusk. I’m hedged; in quiet gloom I gaze through branches at the vast and soaring sky. These spaces are my own – windless lightless sightless. Cloud is a blank stretch, a hand across dimmed sky. The earth cools. I sit, unmoving in the blacks of my canopies.

Night comes in thickened dread, cat scream, quiet, shuddered breath. Stare out the trees’ black gaunts. What’s left? My raw skin-sting. My stiff throat, dry. My smell of fox piss, dry-sour stink. I slink to crouch then curl, wetlick my own arse. To your beds, leave me to it.

My eyes spill into this, my hallowed ground.

My heart, long stilled. But still I bleed; my skin will peel, arterial throb, vein network yet reveals

            my innards out pain.

© Ali Cargill 2020

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