In the park a crowd of people cluster
in rings around a rag of performers
whose fleshy stench makes space for their play.
"But ho! I hear a trumpet blare
from over yonder field."
"A fair haired lad has come to bring
this evil bane to heel ..."
Within the grime of their garments, colour:
the green of weld and woad, the red
of madder root, each marked in wool
and cotton woven in the cloth of shoes
and shirts and pants and patched jackets
strapped to the body by strings, and buttons -
each oval true to the artist who carved it.
"He wears a breastplate bright as noon
and carries a great spear."
"And even though he tumbles on
the ground we give a cheer ..."
They sweat as they dance despite the frost
that powders the eddies of air they reel in
to the white of a memory of mist, or perhaps
an echo of moonlight etched across skin
and scabs that should have sought the grave
in a different age - a darker place
where the scuff of a foot or the strike of a phrase
was a force to keep the cunning of devils
away from the hearth, the home, the breath.
"For he is England's own Saint George -
a little short, we know."
"But even so he's not afraid
to battle monstrous foes ..."
She watches for a minute, a mute witness
in a crowd of laughing, crowing shoppers
drawn to the hoodeners' desparate show.
Their dread is her panic - a potent dismay
of shock and loss, the sharp displacement
from the known to the new enough to render
her lost again in the grip of madness.
Their faces tell her the truth of this horror:
a sidelong glance at the snickering giants
surrounding the space; a squall of noise
hauling a head into the hug of shoulders;
the jaws as slack as the strings on the hobby
now stolen by kids for the kick of a game.
"He fights for Christ and Christendom
and our own mortal souls ..."