poet. writer. imposter.
Between playing field and farmers fallow – where cowslips and poppies bob and bow in an endless game of politeness – a tree that thought Victoria was fleeting, stood alone, hollowed by age, by insect; still fruiting - a last gasp of fecundity; a haven promised behind the bark; cortex, heartwood, and cambium, weathered and smoothed by dust and wind and idle time. When the sun speared my skin, I would take books and pop to spend time in its shade, hidden, happy. Then came the man who stank of sweat and fags, slate eyes and mudded clothes that spoke of horror and hounding. Eyes glaring, our hearts pounding, he raised his shaking finger to his pursed lips. I nodded, emphatic, but I remembered Alan Bates and knew I would believe nothing he said. I knew right then, he needed my tree more than I. Wordlessly, I gave him a pack of KP Rancheros and half a bottle of Cresta. He took them, shuddered, leaned into the trunk and began to cry. The tears scared me and I ran home. When the police came door to door, and asked about strange men, I said nothing. Making the brut connexion between the crying Bates and the demon danger he described - in stern blue, and shining silver - came with the morning’s light. After breakfast, I ambled to the tree to reclaim ownership. The only sign of the man who was not Jesus, was the crinkled plastic packet pushed deep into the bottle, some Embassy butts and spent matches by the wet root; a faint brown odour of ash, stale flesh and artificial bacon – with a “thank you” crudely scratched into sapwood, shavings gently rocking in the swirl of the morning breeze.