Size / / /

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

like thieves).

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

favorite joke.

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.




Robert Borski works for a consortium of elves repairing shoes in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. You can read more of his work in our archives.
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15 Jul 2024

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Who chose who spoke? Who silenced the sparrow?
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