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Ghostwood

The wild-wood seemed empty when we were young,
a doorstep Eden to my friend and me,
as we cycled dusty paths and rabbit tracks

through halls of mottled gold and whispering green.
Our stones torpedoed the old mill pond, where dragonflies
were mother-ships to wasps and water-boatmen.

Or we'd creep through ruined houses thick with black webs:
the warm remains of recent fires in the hearths,
bottles strewn by soiled blankets on the floor.

While the woods conjured fungus or primrose,
ghosts arrived in the sudden silences of birds
and in the goose-flesh touch of unseen eyes

that watched from mote-filled prisons of the sun.
But one afternoon, as teatime neared
and we pushed our bikes homeward up a hill,

a man stepped out of the trees and said:
I'll let you into the greatest secret: and out sprang
a thing with a neck like a forearm,

ghost-white from having been kept in the dark,
as he zipped apart his groin's black fruit.
Then he walked along beside us murmuring

how he'd seen us breaking windows with stones
and holding hands, but would never tell.
And all the while that living length nodded closer

and its hooded eye regarded us:
You can touch it if you want.
Then he stood and watched us walk away,

and gravely Peter turned to me and said:
I don't want to play here any more,
and I agreed; there were other places we could go.

But later I returned,
cycling urgently for miles down the summer dusk,
to be folded into that astounding dark.
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