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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 13, Number 2, June 2019

Claire Everett
Northallerton, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom

In Passing

I learnt his road and, ere they were
Sure I was I, left the dark wood
Behind, kestrel and woodpecker,
The inn in the sun, the happy mood
When first I tasted sunlight there . . .
The Other by Edward Thomas (1878–1917)

He is the stranger known to us all, not by name, but for the sight of him day in, day out, somewhere on the lane at any and every hour. Or so it seems. And the same garb whatever the season: a T-shirt, or a sweater with rolled-up sleeves; an army jacket, grasped loosely in one hand, fluorescent sweatbands on his wrists. From his gait and build he might well be a birch sapling that has upped roots and walked.

Some regard him with fear, for no other reason than the mystery he bears like an invisible mantle on his upright shoulders and the way he covers his face with a well-placed buff, a woolly hat and sweeps of matted hair. Others have become acquainted with his gentle nod of greeting, his faint hello. Once, beneath the eggshell sky of dawn he spoke to me five words of warning: "Careful, it's icy in places." I wish I could recall the timbre of his voice, but it was there and gone like breath vapour. Much like him. And yet.

Today he casts no shadow, but I feel him near in the same way I sense the roe buck's stare, or that neck-prickle that comes, perhaps, from the imperceptible rush of air that heralds the woodpecker even before bird and call come bouncing through leaf-light.

Goat-willow catkins
and Lesser Celandines . . .
the year not unlike
every fair-haired child
newborn, long gone

between pawprints
the telltale tracks of deer
his story
known only to these paths
now overwritten

earlier still
this Blackthorn winter . . .
a month ago now
since he chose to leave
via a southbound train

Author’s Note: for more information see the Prevent Suicide website.



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