Tuesday, 12 August 2008


But this way was not destined to be danger-free;
In the night a flock of Fantoums had entered the forest
Staffs in their clutches, claws sharp as scythes.
At first Uif crept, and strove to be stealthy,
But then, through the green-growth, she glimpsed the monsters:
Fear filled her, terror took her and trampled judgement,
Sudden, hare-like, she struck—ran straight like a runnel,
And the hooting and savage Fantoums got her scent
Turned their goggle-eyes all at once where she was gone
And unloosed their long limbs to come loping after.
There were three of them, throating like hounds, holloping
Through the trees, bounding over bush and bole.
In an lockjaw of terror she trod the ground,
Fast as her feet could, and the boy bouncing at her back;
Once she fell on a lime limb but leapt fast to her feet
She knew that the Fantoums were afraid of the forest's-end
That if she could get shot of the trees she'd survive
Only get free to the fields where the barley bristled,
And beyond to the houses, home of the Brights
Where braves would bear blades to repel the repulsive:
Axes for tree-tumbling, knives for unlocking pig’s-leather
Ungumming their guts, getting blood for black-pudding
And slicing up the carcass for choice succulent cuts.
So she ran, and her baby bawled upon her back
But the Fantoums were not far, breathing behind her;,
She snatched a glimpse over her shoulder: they were there
Eyes like two toadstools on the flats of their faces
Brown and spark-centred; mouths like sinks in their skulls
Rimmed about with raking teeth, sharp as scissors,
One was almost upon her, when she half-turned and hefted
Her small-sword to tear its sheer skin, to sever a claw
Or otherwise warn the ogre away. But it slinked like a snake
The sword swung without biting, and it boomed,
Never lessening the lope of its immensely long limbs,
The creature clutched at her arm with its clasping claws.
She dodged, best as she could, with the baby dragging her back,
A dead weight upon her, wailing and back-dragging.
She leapt to the left, over a rotted roll of fallen tree,
And ran on rapidly, fast as her feet could fly.
The beast was behind her; she could hear it, and smell its stink,
And then it had its claws in her—or not her, but her burden,
The claws in her son, her Leman, her lovely one,
But the loathsome thing had latched on the lad
And Uif was yanked backward, her feet flying up
And down she fell, breath bashed from her body,
On her spine-base, screaming, arms out; the ape was on her.
But it had hold of her boy—no grip on her body,
And so, in a panic she strained to stand and push on,
She broke the knot that was tied at her breastbone,
Cut the cloth there that was carrying her child
And, weeping with heart’s-woe, she leapt away
And sprinted through spring-coloured growth
Leaving her love, her fine boy, Leman,
Behind in the undergrowth for Fantoums to feast on,
And so she escaped, her tears tumbling from her,
Out of the edge of the woodland and into the wide space
Where crops were cultivated, and barleycorn grew.


Mahendra Singh said...

That was really good, more please!

Adam Roberts Project said...

Your wish: my command.