On The Eve of Wintersleep

"Moonrise in a Wood," Franklin Booth - 1909

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ON THE EVE OF WINTERSLEEP

 

The monster approaches the edge of the forest,

enveloped in the green.

He is covered in vines and moss, with arms and legs

bound thick with muscle and soil.

He is the keeper of these woods

and he is curious.

 

Running a cracked knuckle under his eye, he looks out over

the town nestled in the valley below.

Smoke rises from redbrick chimneys as the rusty October sky

fades to black, the sun burning out behind the mountains.

Glowing embers in the town catch his eye, like the odd lights on the

peat-bogs deep in his woods.

 

The monster has wondered often about the creatures below,

watching them scurry from one place to the next, and

the strange rituals they carry out year after year, when

the leaves turn orange and fall to the ground, when

the temperature cools and the trees begin their slow descent

into wintersleep.

 

The house-dwellers trade in their skins for faces of bone,

horns protruding from their heads, adorned with

forked tails, long noses and branches hanging from their backs.

They wear dark smudging with white eyes and walk the streets

of their town, chiming in unison for all manner of things.

 

The monster walks slowly down the hillside,

Leaving the protection of his forest,

the vines entwining his arms and legs

stretching back towards the woods,

but the creature plods on,

his curiosity drawing him down.

 

Dark houses line either side of the street.

 

The monster lets out a long, steamy breath, musty with the smell

of swampland and quagmire.

 

He is wary.

 

He turns and sees a glowing face staring down at him from a ledge above,

A leering smile with

sharp, thickset teeth

and wide, burning eyes.

 

He is bewitched.

 

As he continues down the paved road,

glowing faces peer down at him from

windows, rocking chairs and porch-ledges.

They grin with fire-faces,

gargoyles awaiting the midnight hour.

 

Entranced by their wicked grins

He hears the notes of a song, carried softly on the wind.

It is hazy, spiced with dark secrets and mischief.

The lanterns sing of graverobbers,

Ancient hexes,

Skeletons with winged feet and old names,

A city deep beneath the black mountains

and the burial place of the Devil’s first love.

 

The monster, hearing their song

dances in the street,

singing the slaughtered pumpkin waltz.

 

Cail Judy is a writer. He enjoys poetry, prose and is currently 
working on his first novel. Raised in the Canadian Prairies near 
a First Nations reserve, he grew up with a deep love for books 
and the stories of his Native grandmothers. He is a co-founder 
of the Wolf Mountain Writing Collective and has been published 
in [spaces], This Great Society and White Rabbit Quarterly.