There is a story, whereby a creature, dark as marsh slop
and capped by land-barnacles as a toad is, protrudes
from oak roots at dawn to rub fresh hens’ eggs with grass –
smearing them a violent green.
The local hare, despondent at the loss of summer
and with green in her mind, eats the eggs
and is twisted inside-out, her true face hatched from the muzzle
rolling back until she is a goblin – an imp strung with trailing sinews,
clad in the skin of a hare, a long two-tail hood,
and a hunger for dusk.
Climbing her closest oak, she suckles fruit bats –
dropping soft creamy nuggets
in the nests of wrens, late-season blackbirds, and robins.
Safe in the clutch, each wet gob splits
and oozes ribbons seamed with berry-red fibres, like thread.
These knit around twigs, ingest shells,
feathers, the bones of his brothers,
until the whole is consumed in a closing fist
which festers as the night deepens, seeping flesh-filled bubbles.
Within the chemical froth, flies form and swarm
into galaxies, constellations, and a pungent nucleus –
the foundation of a living thing.
And then a knuckle, an elbow,
a skinned head, and four pallid limbs covered in gelatin.
Barely born, the creature falls
(easily mistaken for the skeleton of some dead leaf)
to the forest floor. Little eyes gummed shut
but senses gathered, he turns his slicked belly up
to dry by the dawn’s light, and in tiny fists
pulls up tufts of winter turf.
Caroline Hardaker lives in Newcastle upon Tyne with her husband, a giant cat, a betta fish with attitude, and a forest of houseplants. Her poetry has been published widely, most recently or forthcoming by Magma, The Emma Press, Neon, and Shoreline of Infinity. Her debut chapbook ‘Bone Ovation’ was published by Valley Press in October 2017.