The Old Soldier
He has a hut in the woods, well-concealed;
bounded by ash and thorn, linteled in ivy,
where he hides a Falkirk kettle and finds
a tin tea caddy stashed safely with the horseshoe
trivet and well-worn pan. It is not so small,
a familiar path of bird song leads him on
to dress in blackbird colours and sing of rain
while he works by the stream. A young buck
at his side asks who owns the forest?
He has no reply, only beckons, come and see;
the bounty of trees heavy with apples, a crop of nuts
netted with the fingers, a spring dancing
to offer a cup of water, the abundance
of berries and birds to pick them.
Tame a man and lie him down,
make him peaceful in crowds and muddy trenches;
at home he is quiet as a fox and prefers
the rowan tree and blackthorn’s sloe arms
to other company. He finds a clutch of mushrooms,
the honey of the wild bees, a patch of wild strawberries,
enjoyed with a wash of tea and a drift of briar roses.
The summer hides him until autumn swells
her belly and skeins the sky with wild geese.
He is a nimble singer of the spinning wheel,
friend to the wren and woodpecker, despiser
of his own children, his wife has given up on him.
At night he hangs his hood with the fair white
birds, the voice of the wind harps twigs,
and the steam’s cascade is night music to his
swan song, He lays down with no quarrel,
a hermit in his little hut, and gives thanks.
Ali Jones is a teacher and mother of three. Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Mother’s Milk Books, Breastfeeding Matters, Green Parent magazine and The Guardian. Her pamphlets Heartwood and Omega are forthcoming with Indigo Dreams Press in 2018.