At The Stake
Our last meal together was broth made thick
with the meat from a fat rabbit.
You, bold as thunder, quiet as falling ash
caught the grey field runner while the sun
threw fiery arrows across the tired land.
And here we stand, about to meet the fire.
Our punishment for living quietly, for pans
simmering with herbs, for burning candles
made with wolf fat and scented with honey.
They have bound you with the same thick rope
as I am bound with. Your small front legs
are tied up behind your head, as my arms are.
You stopped making noises a while ago.
The spiders and ants from the forest have fled
the severed limbs of the trees that stood
around our now ruined home.
I tell you that we will burn today and I know
you understand, because your swollen eyes
became still, and you stop trying to struggle
from the bindings cutting into your soft skin.
The owl has come to honour us. On the roof
of a market stall selling hot cakes and cider,
he perches, the slim body of a ferret
threaded between his talons.
The horizon is ready to hand me a cloak,
and guide us both away from this violent end.
There is some oak among the kindling,
the smell of my woodland guardian is powerful
and comforting, like the smell of my father’s
beard after a day foraging in the woods.
We hold eye contact, while flames flicker
towards us, hot and fast and in your eyes I see
the morning I found you in a nest of brambling,
eyes hardly open, mouth ripped awake by predator.
I stitched your skin with a thorn and sheep’s wool,
and carried you home in my basket, under a soft
blanket of elderflowers, honeysuckle and heather.