The Conscript’s Report (pub. by Obsessed With Pipework #87)

I was on leave that day.
The mountain air seemed
to pulsate, as if
a multitude of wings
flickered – an altered state.
A cast off snakeskin
from a tree hung
like a warning.

I met a stranger on
the hidden way,
who asked me strangely
– with a sidelong gaze –
to take great care.
After our goodbyes
I turned to watch him go,
but he had vanished.

Noon’s a haunted hour.
I reached the cove
where streams slip icily
like eels into the sea.
Exhausted by the heat
I wanted to wade in
but I could not – instead
I stood transfixed:

what waves there were
lapped silently to shore;
and the distended tide
appeared to glitter
with a menacing allure
that pulled me in
but I resisted – focusing
on a white boat, far west.

Finally, I lay down
on the burning shingle.
I woke to find a giant
lizard watching me,
it’s face near mine.
When it retreated
to a broken wall,
I set off for my swim.

I waded in and pulled off
a panicked length,
avoiding shadows
cave and depths beyond
the shallow seabed;
picturing arms trying
to pull me under,
as I powered along.

Then, I sat on a flat rock
and cried, till nightfall.
The news reported
more drowned refugees.
Autumn gave the beach
its mourning weeds
– sea grasses, dark and bleak –
while gulls lamented.