Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Interchangeable Chameleon

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 
and lowers 
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, 
wild-goose diversions 
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 
swoops across 
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.


  1. " After many false starts,
    wild-goose diversions
    that still gum their transfers
    onto the view ahead,
    you arrive, perhaps,
    at the beginning of your journey."

    This resonated, Jonathan, and by the end, all of it did...I know too well about false starts and wild geese.... moths to flame...... I run to flame and am burned every time... this finding our way through the woods, these roads less traveled, not taken..... always the choice of two roads's rarely simple and straightforward... or maybe it is and I just make it complicated.... I'm tired of wild geese.... I want a blue heron...

    well.... there's what turned out to be a bit of a stream of consciousness response..... It was good to hear from you the other day my friend.... always a light in these woods.... always comforting.... thanks... wish you well, wish you a good weekend...


    1. Thank you, Liz. A lovely response. No, you are not complicating things, although the light is always there.

    2. warmest thanks, my friend..... "we read to know we're not alone" -C.S. Lewis...

      always grateful,
      Liz ~*

    3. Very true, and thank you for the reminder, Liz.

  2. A fascinating piece of work that will keep me occupied for a fair while following this initial read. 'A wave of earth...a weight of clouds...' - I love that.

    1. Very nice of you to say so, Nick. Thank you.



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