The Flier and the Sheltered Maid’, Ana Gardner

Illustration © 2021 Miguel Santos

 [ Knotty walls, © 2021 Miguel Santos ] I hide inside the knotty oak-log walls
Shaved slowly into shape by my grandfather

I wither
Safe behind the untrimmed hedge
So dense and gnarled no light can filter through
No wish, no touch,
No wayward thought

But you

You beckon from the shaded hollows
So verdant, tempting, sweetly unrestrained
And though I know the oldwives’ warning tales
Of Fliers born of night and wanton wills
Your eye has caught me

I unlock the gate
And step onto the tree-lined path

You whisper me through shadowed, winding trails
On untrod dirt, past foreign-rooted trees
I follow and I stray, in turns
Frightened and free

I am a sheltered, daring moth
Seeking new canopies

You welcome me, though I don’t match at all
Your gangling, ancient majesty
I never see your face, but glimpse
Ancient chalk handprints on the faces of your trees

We walk to where a soft, brown fire burns
Alive beneath the earth
And there, we lay
While gently-floating embers greet my skin
Each slow and searing, like a lover’s kiss
You whisper, ‘Learn’
‘Be mine’
‘Be free’

You give me freedom and a braver silence
I give you my first flight and take your fire

You urge me further
Crushing tender leaves
We stir up steaming dirt beneath our feet
Until you leave me
In the wooded shade
Unraveled and unkempt

Soot streaks my skin like secrets waiting to be shared
And on my tongue
I carry all your scents

I am alone, far from my oak-barred gate

I walk on
To knock on other walls
And beckon other maids.

© 2021 Ana Gardner

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