Indian chief in full plumage,
air-brush profile on a metal sign,
fades through the decades,
tractor red to tobacco brown
and rust bleeds from the screw-heads
that fix him to the mower machine shop wall
beside a silent path that follows
a line of chalk pierced with flint,
fringed by heart-shaped leaves
coated in ash-grey dust.
A wave of earth, gold and mirrors
in severe farmhouse windows,
a weight of clouds
and cold wicks
in white candles
as the light notches
resistance to the onset of night.
Visible breath, vapour…
the surface changes,
the wheel of the bicycle
prints snake back v shapes
in the sand and green towers
over the grey thread
that leads onwards
into solid black.
After many false starts,
that still gum their transfers
onto the view ahead,
you arrive, perhaps,
at the beginning of your journey.
Heavy boots, steel toe caps
and black leather, one step after another,
the cold light of pinhole stars
offer a glimpse of the other side,
feather shape breath, tick of spokes,
whisper of tyre on sand,
molecules gathering in the fibres
of your long black coat
until a flame in a jar
the darkness ahead.
You are not alone.
Steps mirror your own. How long
have they been following you?
The presence beside you
is the interchangeable chameleon,
difficult to fix and for now wears a trench coat
and heavy boots to match your attire
as if dressed in sympathy or comradeship,
two foot soldiers on the road, lost
and separated from the battalion
after a tree exploding skirmish.
His breath smokes and he stands
a good head and shoulders above you,
a wisp of beard on his chin, crystal blue eyes
that have a far off look as if seeing what really lies beyond.
The words that he speaks cannot be transcribed
except to say that they are filled with cast-iron and fire,
stealth and transgression
as they mingle with the scent of pine
where the trees stand in columns
with pockets of cool air filling the spaces between them.
His coat has no buttons and he wears a thin shirt,
chains and pendants hang from his neck
and the flame in the road ahead approaches, nearer and nearer.
Moths and flames,
the light leads onwards
and the chameleon man
has done all he can.
His hair turns to snow
and he extends his scarecrow arm,
you take his hand
and he says good luck
and nothing more needs to be said.