The winter dried grass, a golden expanse soft like the velvet fuzz in the warm nape of a baby’s neck, slides down to meet the sharp stubble of the cornstalk graveyard. Winding off in the distance the furrows are crowded in a jumble of waves. Distinct and stiff the guerillas’ pit is laid flat, open to the air. The stabbing swords are sometimes bare under the mercurial sky or hide in the dark moonless nights waiting only to break the skin.
The gate way to the fields is guarded by the weighted bows of sentries. Old generals’ vanities dangle from camouflaged limbs only to be cast aside to lie forgotten on the needle covered parapet. Lateral roots in the shallow bed wind through the acrid soil. The questing tendrils, cinnamon grey scabby fingers that poke out here and there, break the surface like the backs of whales as they gasp before sinking below the surface again. The morning sun strikes the three quarter profile running from pate to sole and sinks warm to the roots. The profile strains in a light flush from labouring up distant cliffs. Languorous, first arms and then legs, light and clear, crystal dew misted, wrap round to caresses the sap crusted bores.
In the daylight, overcast or bright, the trees mark the way to the world beyond and the preternatural quiet is not as noticeable. The empty thump of the root riddled ground, the hollow echo of an underground warren, is not so solemn, not so full. The trees are graceful, heavy and benevolent in the light of day. Back behind that green needled barrier the orchard spreads out and the acres of field behind seem just that and nothing more. Hemlock and nightshade are speckled in bright reds and blossoms of purple and gold, just that and nothing more.
In the dark of night, in the bright light of a blue moon (the moon light is always blue even when the moon is golden and full of the secret harvest) the evergreens are suddenly unknown and dark. The safety of the house floodlight reaches back as far as the trees where it is set upon and divided into long streamers. They falter and the warm comfort of home fades behind. The moonlight and the darkness paint the rises and the falls. The shadows should be black and empty but they’re not. They are full.
In the dark the nightshade glows and creeps. The hemlock is blacker than black. The line of the orchard caught frozen in a fleeing strand, shows surprised, a figure watching from the edge. A dun coat…a deer…no an upright figure…silent there and then lost as the dark tide rises again.
The passage from the controlled confines of the garden across the border to the place beyond is marked by the knell. The taproot and laterals have eaten away the foundations. Giants hang from perches, their limbs dangling in the sky anchored by macramé weavings. The pale strings vibrate to the tap of a step, booming loud through the delicate tatting that decorates the skin and the caves beneath. Stepping across the ridge, the alarm sounds, alerting the earth and whatever dwells beneath that someone walks there …in the dark or under a moon…sometimes hidden, sometimes bare, under the stars cloaked or jewel bright.
The small grave yard is marked by flats of slate. Old roofing tiles mark the slumber of the ones we brought to this place, the one who trusted us, that are with us no more. I did find a bullet casing in the garden buried a foot or so down but that was closer to the house; a most curious place for something like that. We buried them and in doing so carry some of the responsibility for the hand dealt. The scratching of claws on bark and the soft trill of a night bird join the rising wind. One would think that the darkest nights are the direst but that is not so. It is the moonlit nights that are the most laden, dripping with purpose and superstition.
In the blue light, the landscape is altered. The pines loom over head, a hundred feet high or more, blocking off the house. The flood light seems weaker under the full face of the pearl. The three graves are aligned but not even. Hemlock and nightshade creep and glow. Standing on that swell of velvet gold, the ocean of jagged knives is thrown into sharp relief and spread out in choppy furrows that lap on the shores of the orchard tree line. Perspective demands a precipice where reason says there isn’t. I could turn back and pass through the trees, past the graves while my steps sing a betrayal to the hollow ground below. I could step off the ledge into that bayoneted ocean and swim out to the distant tree line and whatever waits in the blackened raspberry caned corridors beyond.