by Jack Helme

The wood around the village edge
greys in the distance like eyes do in time.
The tree bark creases like crows’ feet
arounds knots and branched shoulders.
Craning my neck to write, the forest
comes out from behind beeswax polish
and I chase my classmates across the pine carpet.
Looking past my pencils and papers,
the darker grains of desk wood shadow
and strike through the initials of my friends.
Between my fingers, pencil shavings crumble
like dried earth and leaf stems,
falling against the bin metal
they sound like wingtips clipping twigs in the canopy.
Last year, at the edge of Queenswood,
Thomas found the dead body. Everybody stopped searching,
it was grey and green and naked and quieter.
On Sunday, my cousin will marry in the village
a boy my father dislikes for taking dirty hands to mass.
‘It’ll be good craic,’ his family’s side say from somewhere
out beyond the tree line.
I sit in my room, under Scots Pines and eiderdown
with Thomas, my closest friend. Golden boys,
scheming, knowing no-one could ever know
the marriage will not complete, there will be no kiss.
Families will gather in a plastic church and it will melt.
When the river flood pulls back past the bank’s height
another will be found half planted in the fallows.
The trees will attend the marriage, and the wake, and clap.