The world catches its breath after harvest,
ghosts of leaves drifting across the fields
into heaps of tarnished gold, and the hunters
ride out, shouts like weapons echoing sharp
from the hills. How long I wait, cool evenings
shivering against my skin, dreams curdling
like milk left too long in the barn. Yet still you
run like the great stags of the forest,
long-legged and wild, a rust-brown shadow
moving through stony creek beds
and up the long, pine-studded slopes.
The rest of our people whisper shame
in my wake, how I drove you out,
how my love bewitched you and left you
less a man than before. But I never cast
curse or blessing until you fled, never
cut and bled, never ground roots between
my teeth, or drew Bible verses backward
on the floor of the cellar, until you abandoned
our dreams. And then no price seemed too steep
to pay, for your hand landing gently in mine,
your gaze deep as autumn night
and steady as the ice on a winter pond.
I have fallen to witches, sworn my soul
to something hungrier than my heart,
and all for you, who have never looked back,
clad in wild skins and regrets.
Read by Diane Severson.