Colonel Okey’s Ambush

  They had skirted the hedge, looking all the time for the softest path

free from betraying twigs. Somewhere a horse

whickered at silence, the smell of it

pressed down

and there suddenly

the others, standing twenty breaths’ distance.

The moment rounds, grows pendulous,

a water bead

hung on the grass that fringes them, as yet untrampled -

     yards away, one lad yawns,

another tosses ribaldries, unsure of how to fill an instant

both eternal and long lost (not knowing they’re already dead

as fate and earth can will it – as all flesh is dead at birth)

but he

who must set the cogs in motion, pauses

a kestrel that mounts air’s summit without diving,

wary of the still field he must break

to draw blood

and make home.

          He cocks his musket, one eye closes;

all creation hackles, that last instant, at the catch

of metal brushing back upon itself, gathered to spring.

There will be no undoing

the spark that follows.

 

BY CLARE MULLEY