The Hawthorn and Hazel stand naked.
Sharp thorns barely touch across the wind whipped divide
Where the old man stoops at the raggedy edge of a frosted field
To study the raw material of his ancient craft
His blue breath steams in whistling bursts as he strokes the familiar shaft of his bone handled knife.
He pokes his withered hands into gauntlets, shaped by years of grip and graft, and nods to show that he is ready.
He pockets his pipe then grabs a tangle of thorny tongues,
And bends them back on themselves, slicing into the unyielding root.
He lays the groaning whiteness bare but spares the blackened skin.
He hammers in whittled staves and weaves the matted crown into a barbed and braided barricade.
He grunts as he wrestles rogue branches into his deadlock and pins them to the frame.
Moving on down the shiver thin line, he layers limp leaf mould onto the straining roots to bed them down.
At intervals, he steps back, and bends to cough up gobbets of mistletoe phlegm,
Then spits a single crimson berry onto the bonfire of severed boughs.
Trussed and bound his newly fettered foes play dead,
Knowing that, year on year, Spring will force her spume through their laced lattice
And pattern the edge of the old man’s grave with green.