milner place | the sacred game

he looked into the hole

the shadows made
they called
the valley
of the grizzled wolf

where beavers banked
the limbs
of slaughtered trees
to dam
the oil-black waters
of a stream
that fed into a cavern’s mouth
to leave behind what little light
had slithered through the shade
of angry crags
dark lichened trunks
of oaks all bent with age
and anguished
by the spears of ice

he knew
that was no place
to dance or sing
that there lips parched
and life
was not a word
accustomed or benign

he turned to climb
a mountain crowned
by sun

leaving the mountain’s

coronet of sun
he climbed down
through the clouds among
dark-ribbed boles of stagnant pines
their sorrow

a beetle whirred
a raven croaked

he stumbled on a muddy trail
with a script
by cloven hooves
and all the forest smelled
of dying light

a chorus of midges
chanted evensong
with owls

breaking from out
the trees he stood before
a lake
blue green
round rimmed
by sedges silvering
in the breeze

the sun was fierce
but lonely
in the sky

he followed the river

in its flush of spring


grinding the banks
that fought
to keep a hold

water wearying
came to rest
in languorous pools
where fished
the kings
and queens of birds

a pike
with steely jaw
and eye
in its ambuscade
among the stems of reeds

then the stream
in lazy curves
as it smelled
the salt
heard the screech
of gulls that heralded
its funeral rites

he stood
by the heavenly sheen
of sea

stalking the sand

waves had ground to wrack
and ruin
from audacious rock
he was as restless
as a ship
wallowing far beyond
the reef

as terns
that probed the skin
of sea
with urgent beaks

as clouds
stricken with lightning bolts
that scuttled to their holes
this ending of his world
all tumbled
by the sleight
of light
only the hard bar
of horizon
as land that lay
behind his back

even that long line
would fall
into the cavern
of the night

at last

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