The Contract

by Pat Winslow

They came one night in February
from the quarry in the valley

with blocks of fog loaded on their carts.
The moon rose and the Bear ploughed the dark.

The ground was bright with blades of frost.
Each footprint they made was a black bite.

All night they carved elaborate shapes
to fit round trees and bushes on the slopes.

A hod of fog is a wondrous thing.
They beetled up ladders into silver scaffolding

to build walls that were windowless and high,
and soft turrets from which arrows or birds might fly.

When the last block was put in place they packed their gear,
took down their ladders and disappeared.

Only one thing remained – a spirit level made of ice
which soon melted. We marvelled at the edifice,

the fact you could walk straight through it,
how, like water, it could open and shut

behind you and leave pearls shivering on your skin and hair.
The conditions were perfect. We found our Brocken spectres

that morning, walking tall and equidistant on the rim,
each one a silent, faceless, stretch-limbed twin.