from Patrick Henry's "Him in the Gorse":

The poet first came to her uncle's cottage in the West Country after she had suffered a vision of a frock-coated skeleton trudging through the gorse. She had spoken of the spectral visitant only to her confessor, who had called her observations “premonitions.” It was likely the devil himself tempting her, the Father warned. Her penance was the recitation of three rosaries. But her heart seized at this advice: he was a whisky priest, soused by his own odious spirits. She knew, from the crack of her estranged father's belt and her mother's primal whimper, that demons were jealous taskmasters, envious of a young woman like herself graced by God with the second sight.

So, when she glanced through the window and saw the man pushing through wind and rain, she thought of her premonition of the skeleton in the gorse. “Premonition”: she laughed to herself, for summoning the cleric's word. In her vision, the bog had swallowed the traveler's yellowed foot bones. The gorse had twined around the bones and pierced them with its nettles. The skeleton's black coat then burst at the seams. The fabric rustled, molted feathers of cotton and thread, and its panels winged off, a pair of canvas crows with gleaming, brass-buttons eyes. The gorse's nettles then rooted into the marrow. Stalks and blossoms shattered the skeleton's jaw, scattering shards and teeth like chaff. The yellow blooms deepened into a rosy gold. The eye sockets remained vacant, a death stare that stalked her beyond the terrain of her dreams.

She looked again. The man was nearer, now, and he held an arm against his brow to ward off the rain. She placed a tray of biscuits in the iron range and turned over the minute-glass; she filled the kettle and set it upon the hob. Her uncle, a turf-cutter like all the men of her mother's side, would be in a roar tonight, with her wasting good tea on a vagrant. No matter if the guest was well dressed, she tittered to herself. She toweled her hands on her apron and went to receive the man.

From the current issue, No. 22 >>

Published by Pen and Anvil Press


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