Blanched by the sun, with every last bit
of moisture in us boiled out
by the violent breath of summer,
we are the flaycrakes and bogles, murmets
and mawkins, shayles and terriculae—
the scarers of crows, in other words.
To us is given the ancient task of guardianship.
Strung up on our armatures of wood, it is we
who feign life every time the wind blows.
Small matter that we are slowly being erased
from the world mote by mote. Our mission
is to frighten off those who would steal from
our fields (though it is us who hang crucified
On a dawn to dusk basis, no prayers animate
our tedium; for beings such as we, God is dirt
and sky, a scythe of green field and remote stars.
At night, however, we convene and converse,
using bats as our proxies. Did you hear the one
about the farmer's daughter? This is our
So the days go, from June to October. But just
when we think our stewardship may endure forever,
there comes a morn of killing frost. The harvest
must now be undertaken quickly, and to propitiate
the gods of barn and commerce, our maker burns
himself in effigy: one fatal spark and soon all of his
straw children are ablaze, shivering with fire—but
not before he applies a final chrism of mud,
painting a smile on each.
Mine, I can still feel, as it's the last thing to ignite.
If it looks anything like the others, it could be a bird.