He is paused, boiler-suited
against the work to follow,
observing the day fail around him.
A light strip in the west lends him eyes and
when the town’s dark circumference reaches his boots
he gathers up his tools –
a sack of tree whips,
one old spade,
and goes roaming.
Roaming in the gloaming.
He plants a whip and moves on,
seeking the spaces in between –
hedge gaps and the wind’s spare territory.
Here between a brimming ditch and the roadside is bare ground
and he is hoofing out the nettle roots with his boot
stamping everything down
then feeling for a whip, rolling it between his fingers.
The spade slits the dim soil, the whip fits in snug
and now the spade handle’s hammering down the stake.
His plain sack contains magical ideas: oak shadow,
snowy birch, sunlit canopy, hazelnuts
but the man is no magician,
instead he calls himself a terrorist,
burying his bombs on a slow fuse.
Who wouldn’t want to create this cover, he asks?
And how did this land come to be so poor –
the thin aspect and open sense of it,
the bloated irrigation, every common asset
brought low by fast money and want of interest.
This unfurnished land,
reduced but widely loved
is his land,
and he loves it because it belongs to himself
and to everyone he knows,
and he loves it for being indefinitely reliable.
So give me my fistful of trees, he mutters,
bombs with fuses so slow-burning
he’ll be on his back in the churchyard
when these oaks and field maples
detonate their autumn shrapnel
over the heads of townsfolk he will never know,
men and women taking paths he roamed
and so roaming he changes now for ever.
Night rules last,
the west’s light is gone
the land beneath him is hidden
and his hands ache.
Only his soul feels strong,
his rebel soul
so lifting his sack and spade
he steps home through the darkness,
alarms and scarlet crescendos
exploding inside his brain.