He leaves no tracks
in fields laid flat by winter,
this way and that
over bare, black soil,
pulling his coat closer
to fend off the cruel wind.
He carries a dark lantern
and a scythe, a sack slung
lightly, rolled and tied
with thin twine.
He moves like fog,
quiet and cold, and each night
field mice, rabbits, voles,
freeze in his wake, hares shiver,
bats and owls retreat
to barns and steeples
as he steps into the air.
The old ones tell of the Gatherer,
come to rob you of your light;
he’ll say he’s a young man but,
if you dare to meet his sloe-black
gaze, you’ll see what he’s seen –
a thousand snows, a thousand, thousand
moonless nights, the wheeling stars
dissolving, bearing witness
to his harvesting eyes.
He’s the ragged shadow
hung, fluttering, between
darkness and glass, the shapeshifter,
night-visitor, come to steal day,
to erase the shining ledge of morning
leaving only endless sleep.
First published The City Fox and Aesthetica.
Lesley Quayle is a poet, author and folk/blues singer currently living in the wilds of rural Dorset. Her latest collection – Sessions – is published by Indigo Dreams Press.