'The Tanglewood' by Amber Caspian

'The Tanglewood' by Amber Caspian

Tuesday 31 May 2011

The Curious Traveller

His tattered coat flaps like crows wings, feathers of fabric lifting in the breeze, positively flying in the gale almost causing the thin man to take flight if it weren’t for his burdensome bags. His worn boots and holey socks, his feet with skin like cured leather, give evidence of steps distinctly felt upon the road, every stone and bank and verge known, tattooed on each sole. This stick man with legs like wiry branches, with scarecrow-style, bent by time and weather, I wonder, what is his story? He no longer scares the birds, he is of the birds.

Always he walks along the roadside, never the quiet path by a field, or through a sheltering wood or over bright fenland. Always on the road and the verge and the bank while the steady sweep of traffic brushes by him. Perhaps the verge is where the faery folk reside, where time moves more slowly or faster depending on where you fall. For the traveller is ageless and always somewhere along the road, either coming or going I know not which. Eternally leaving footprints on the roadside where few men ever tread.

He only stops to save a snail, frog or hedgehog from ill-advised road crossings. Befriender of wood pigeons high in the trees and rabbits nibbling bark, he is lonely for human company only. His kin are deer, badger, blackbird, crow. He is wise in their ways, erudite in their language. He writes about what he observes in poetic form, his journal crushed and treasured deep in his pockets with a tiny pencil stub. Silently he eats wild blackberries, the haws and toadstools, the carcasses of unlucky animals felled by fast moving humans.  Taking into his body the soul of each being he eats.  He has eaten a lot of crows.

Generations can recall this bowed back and bags with the wings of a crow, plodding down the track to the nearest market town, if that is his destination. So here he is, the man of myth and nightmare, unwitting protagonist in many a story. Perhaps his tale is sad and fearful, of a man trapped in a faery verge, time slow and ponderous for him and high speed for us. Today we see only brief glimpses of him. We sense his age, his lost soul, his clouded mind that cannot remember where he has been but knows he will be home...in a short while...soon...

‘Home’ is a shambles of beams and vines and branches around a cold old chimney of crumbling red brick. He is weary from the road, tired of the verge and the staring faces from cars. He longs to sit and rest his feet. Crouching, he attempts to light a fire, a small comforting glow with yellow hair and red lips and eyes of such dark, deep blue as to be almost purple. He lies before the flame to let in warm dreams of lost love.

Gradually the flame becomes an ember and the ember turns to ash and the ash to dust. The vines of ivy slither across the broken floor toward the broken man, curling around his thin limbs, pulling his ragged coat more tightly, now a shroud as his hollow breath ends in a rough sigh of longing. Slowly entwined in the arms of nature, the man of sticks and wings and bags and crows becomes part of his house as he never was in life, always the road and the verge were home, but now the house becomes the grave of the man. Gradually they fall into the earth, under the leaves from the trees of this hidden woodland corner. Only one lone crow observes the silent end to this tale of travelling men homeward bound.

By Amber Caspian, 26 May 2011

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