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Two years ago I was walking up a mountain path

having been told of excellent views from the summit.

The day was clear and hot, the sky wide and cloudless.

There was only the sound of my breath, my boots treading,

and the faint clonking of cowbells back down the track.

What little wind there was on the climb soon dropped

as I reached the summit, as if it had been distracted

or called upon to cover events elsewhere. I drank eagerly,

catching my breath, and then took in the view, which was

as spectacular as I had been told. I could make out a tree,

a shrub, really  (it being so distant in the valley below

I couldn’t say how high), silently on fire, the smoke

trailing a vertical black line before dissipating. I watched

the flames consume the whole shrub. No one came to stop it.

No one seemed to be around to see it, and I felt very alone.

From nowhere a great tearing came: a fighter-jet, low

and aggressive, ripped above me and, surprised, I dropped

on one knee and watched it zoom, bellowing overhead.

As it passed I saw a shred of something fall, a rag, spinning.

I shielded my eyes to see, bewildered and pinned watching

the object, the rag, gather its falling weight, its speed, until

it flumped down without a bounce, only ten footsteps

to my right. It was part of a white bird, a gull. No head,

just a wing and a hunk of body. No leg, or tail, just

the wing and the torso: purple and bloodied. A violent

puddle surrounded it, already mixing with the grit.

Ferrous blood wafted and I recoiled feeling suddenly

cold and very high up and the view swam madly: I saw

for a second the flaming tree as I staggered backwards

and became aware that I was sitting, I had fallen, but I felt

as if I was falling and falling still, my mind unable to

connect the events which were real and terrifying because

they were real, only now I think it was not, perhaps,

a mountain, it was not, perhaps, a shrub on fire, and not

a fighter-jet boring its noise through the sky, and I am

certain now, it was not me, or a wing or body of a broken

bird, but the fearful and forgotten things I’ve lied to myself

about, and to my friends, and to my family.


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

is co-editor of the Stop Sharpening Your Knives anthology series (Egg Box Publishing). He received the Eric Gregory Award in 2007 and was named a Faber New Poet in 2009. He is a lecturer at Goldsmiths College and reviews new poetry for Poetry London and Poetry Review.

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