Transformation Battles by A. W. Earl

Jul 26, 2021

Between the furrows, I can take it off, when
the storm is on the day, when
the oaks are fading green, I can
make myself all angles, all lollop, all grand knees,
and rust-brown-fur, all twitching ears,
kiss low-dusk-sky
and stare in silent worship at the moon.

Witch boy, when they hunt me, I shall run
as only hares can course,
and leap like a lover to the wind.

On high air, I can take it off, make
myself small and hollow, tight-
-hard curve of breastbone, sinew wings
as all falcons are, cloud-wind
cradled, busy-hipped,
a little thing, lean and high and cruel.

Witch boy, when they hunt me, I shall fall
down in kestrel stoop,
plunge like a challenge to the stream.

In fierce current, I can take it off, find
strong tail, hard sides, sharp teeth
river-heavy, deadly, lithe
as movement of the stream,
breath-cold flow of water over stones,
slick and strong, with grizzled maw,
triumphant, vicious, moving in the reeds.

Witch boy, when they hunt me, I shall swim –
silver-quick, otter swift – to land,
vanish, like a shadow to the wood.

And in thorn-green darkness I can take it off,
Witch boy: ants seething in the moss,
mad-eyed, wind-ruined,
skin wet from brown-water-stream,
skin furrow-scraping-brown,
wild-thing swarming up to where
leaves and light will paint me, gold and green.

Witch boy, when they hunt me, I shall hide,
keep my mouth sap-green, not flee,
nor creep back, like a coward, to the town.

For there, I would need to put it on,
the heavy clothes of womanhood,
put on each weighty stare and
every silver-bullet-graze. Let them
know me: bandage, blood, and limp,
Witch boy of field and stream and sky,
who cannot strip their judgement from his skin.

Stay, then, barefoot on slender rods
and watch them passing,
clumsy on the ground.

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