Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Girls Gone Away

Twenty years ago the first girl became lost
Somewhere between O’Neils fields and the frost
Her footsteps could be seen so clear in the snow
Away from the village to where no one would go
Beyond the farm house, and far past the fence line
Beyond all that O’Neil swore “is all mine”
Into the woods where nothing ever was found
With nothing to see but bare trees and cold ground

The village searched, sobbed and accused
As rage bought them nothing and hearts slowly bruised
And days became weeks and weeks became longer
And the memory of the girl grew fainter not stronger
Silently they agreed to let no feelings show
But hold their pain deep and there let it fester and grow
Until one frosty morning it just came to be
That the image of the girl no villager could see

Her parents were workers and by working each day
They forgot the pure joy of the girl gone away
And life carried on as life always will
With no remnant remaining, just long winter chill
Then seventeen years ago the second girl became lost
Somewhere between O’Neils fields and the frost
Footsteps were clear and easily traced
She’d walked from the town with no soul giving chase

She’d walked away in the depths of the night
Out of their homes and out of their sight
And as the villagers searched, sobbed and accused
They felt familiar pain in their hearts once more bruised
And this time as they searched a boy aged just six
Saw the old scarecrow of torn cloth and sticks
Saw its head tiled now on one side
Saw it turn just so slightly with a smile open wide

He saw one stick arm raise one branch to its lips
And he saw old decay blow just one kiss
The girl not found remained unreturned
And the children were berated, why could they not learn?
Stay in your homes, don’t leave don’t take risks
They were tucked warm and whole, warned and then kissed
And time did its march and inched forward once more
And feelings were locked up for certain and sure

Had her name been Suzanne? Or Airdrie? Or Jane?
No matter, no mention, it would not happen again
Then fourteen years ago the third girl became lost
Somewhere between O’Neils fields and the frost
Footprints again marching out in the snow
While people slept at home with coal fires aglow
While people slept deeply eyes closed on the world
The village of Reigns End lost its third girl

The villagers were furious and afraid and irate
Hammering new fences with and a barricade gate
They defended instead of searching afresh
They defended the north, then the south and the west
They built walls from rocks and dirt and wood
And declared the village sealed closed now for good
Then the boy, now aged a strong wiser nine
Crept to the field beyond the fence line

He skulked to the scarecrow frozen and still
And felt afraid and uncertain and bitterly ill
The scarecrow in moonlight was a shadow and form
Unmoving, uncaring and tattered from storms
“Where is she?” the boy asked and the scarecrow remained
Not speaking or winking, completely unchanged
“Where is she?” he asked and kicked at the figure
Who whipped up its head, as its smile grew bigger

Its eyes blinked wide open and his mouth was a leer
“The girls are all gone long ‘way from here”
Its voice was a hiss of hoar’s frost and death
And the boy smelt sewerage and death on its breath
The boy ran screaming and collapsed to his bed
Where memories became nightmares and nothing was said
For a week he was feverish and pale and near departed
More stress on a village so oft’ broken hearted

Then temperature dropped and appetite returned
But of what he’d seen no parent or friend would learn
For as with the grief that the town rushed to subdue
The boy submerged his encounter and believed it not true
Seven years passed this time before a new girl was lost
Somewhere between O’Neils fields and the frost
O’Neil was long dead and his son moved away
But the fields were O’Neils so the town’s folk would say

A new church had risen and farming had changed
And people had moved and homes rearranged
Old fears were superstitions neither founded nor real
And light and base fact left all things revealed
The girl simply vanished just as with the others
Walking away from her family and her two baby brothers
No traces, no signs, no hope, and no sight
Just there during the day and then gone to the night

The villagers were solemn and sombre and stoic
With no act undertaken be they cowardly or heroic
They mumbled and trod and gave heed to a search
But they never mentioned loss or acknowledged hurt
And the boy now sixteen huddled deep in his home
Afraid to go out and face things alone
He knew the scarecrow was in O’Neils field yet still
Turning its head with its slashed mouth and ill will

He knew it was waiting and abiding aware
But he just could not move, just would not dare
So the year passed and stained the boy in shame
And he hung his head silently absorbed all the blame
And the village continued and never spoke of the loss
And the village returned to winter and frost

Then just three years past, the boy now a man
Turned to the fields able now to understand

The woods were no danger, just the thing in the field
The thing that one winter had malice revealed
The boy now a man with girls of his own
Who he watches each night and never lets alone
The boy now a man with a mans pain and remorse
And a mans intent to alter an ill fates course
And the boy now a man married to a wife he adores
Who he loves as he can despite his hearts flaws

And the woman his wife sees the shadows in his eyes
And waits each night for him to speak ‘ere sunrise
But each night he is stoic and silent once more
And she loves him as is but hopes for yet more
And the man he wakes in darkness at one
With the earth hard and icy and far from the sun
And he hears a creak on the stair and see’s a child of his own
Stepping in her sleep to go away from his home

He leaps from the bed and snatches his axe
As his girl steps out side leaving bare footed tracks
He shouts her name but she yet does not hear
Just walks away surefooted and into his fear
He pressed into the wind that she does not feel
And slips and trips on the ice at his heal
She draws away as he screams for her to wake
Past the boundary and the farm and the old rusted gate

He staggers and weaves and screams to the night
Please let his girl be alive and alright
And in a shaft of the moonlight he sees now revealed
The scarecrow there waiting no longer concealed.
Colossal, eight legged, with its body hunched low
Its many eyes all ablaze with hatred to sow
Under its body are gathered webbed sack like pearls
Each sack containing bodies of the gone away girls

The scarecrow was hunched like a predator hunting
Straw mouth and straw throat growling and grunting
The boy now a man now a father stood resolved
And called to the daughter his heart longed to hold
And the village behind him finally awoke
Lit torches as remorse and denial finally broke
They surged to the field and the man with the axe
And the girl walking closer to the loss and the black

And with his village now with him the mans bravery grew
And he stepped to the creature as a bitter wind blew
The eyes of insanity and night and despair
Met the eyes of a father filled only with care
The man raised his axe and the scarecrow raised limbs
And the axe swung wide as the creature roared at him
And the daughter she stopped and turned to her Dad
Seeing him enraged and frightened and screaming and mad

And she looked to the sacks so close now to hand
She blinked her eyes clear and could now understand
It was on the town’s grief that this the creature it fed
Not on the girls gone away and long believed dead
She could see through the webbing to the girls inside
Breathing so slowly these white webbing dressed brides
And she turned to her father and hoped that he knew
That though her action was reckless it was meant pure and true

And screaming he saw her dive to the sacks down beneath
And he screamed out her name to the girl out of reach
“No” he screamed louder as she vanished from sight
And the creatures foul snapped wildly to bite
He screamed out again now pinned where he lay
Seeing the night darken to black from cold gray
And the creature it turned and sought the girl beneath
Howling and roaring in pained disbelief

As sack after sack was swift torn away
The girl rolled and stood and turned then to say:

“No more”

And the villagers surged forward with flame and with might
And clove and slashed and burnt this creature from night
And the scarecrow, the spider, it howled and it hissed
Surging and stamping and slashing to resist
The girl saw her father and took up his axe
And charged at the scarecrow with relentless attack

The scarecrow was shrinking and bleeding and afraid
Its stature diminished as the girls were dragged away
It was hissing and stamping with fear in its poise
And the man now a father became once more just a boy
Only this time fear would be routed and the nights would be shorter
The boy stood and took the axe the axe from his daughter
And the blows rained and splintered and severed
And the scarecrow crumpled and bled into forever

And the daughter saw her father the brave hearted man
Saw his leg pulsing blood and he unable to stand
And the girls gone away now returned found arms
As their parents ran screaming from their houses and farms
Each girl had not aged and looked just as they’d been
Each blinked and stretched now delivered from dreams
Each held to sobbing parents and received kisses and tears
As each was returned from their families worst fears

And the father, the man, the boy collapsed dead away
With a bite in his leg scorching flesh grey
His daughter she kissed him and felt skin turn ice
And she turned to her mother and sister that night
They wept together over their now dying man
Holding his loved head and both of his coarse hands
And he blinked one and saw his wife and his girls
And he coughed and he whispered “You are my world”

Then breath ceased and life flickered still
And the sun rose unknowing as always it will
And the night frost abated and melted to water
And the wife walked back home with both of her daughters
And their husband and father they never forgot
They never buried his memories or let thoughts of him stop
And often remembered the night he had fought
And the days he had toiled and all that he’d taught

And the grief they kept and turned into more
As they spoke of him with love ever perfect and pure
The scarecrow the spider was gone into the flame
The grass burnt beneath was never the same
It stayed grey and diseased where nothing now grew
So the villagers encircled it with fencing as each of them knew
That grief has a home that must be respected
And that grief, though painful, must stay connected

Grief and loss so easily swallow us whole
Tear at our world and leave punctures and holes
Grief chews and it gnaws and it bruises and pains
Takes everything clean and leaves it bitter and stained
But grief is a product of love and of joy
Of childish wonder that nothing ever can destroy
The memories of all things are with us still
As always they have been and always they will

And those that we’ve lost who we’ve loved and adored
Should never be closed off and sealed behind doors
But spoken of and shared whenever the times right
Appreciated and venerated and kept in plain sight
Turning from lost love only feeds savage beast
And talking and loving are the souls own release
So if to anyone “I love you” you have said
Then that person’s memory will never be dead

So the boy now a man now a father now dead
Was held to the light with his name often said
And the children of the village were told of this tale
That love and not fear should always prevail
And the daughter she grew and had children of her own
All loved and held close until she lay under stone
But her children and grandchildren held her memory plain

Because even in death loves purity remains