The Man in the Woods
by Juliet Antill
His tent buckled in Saturday’s storm.
All summer, mould had made itself at home
and now the meagre shelter
lay like a wounded raptor,
its cartilage of poles at unnatural angles.
I reached inside, tossed out the rocks
that weighted the corners.
The occupant hadn’t trusted pegs.
For months he’d brandished sticks
at walkers, cursed their dogs.
The police came often, talking him down.
Now he was gone;
gone away in his too-big raincoat,
the shopping bag of faded oranges
banging at his calf.
He’d left it all – sleeping bag, mattress,
the barbecue he’d cooked on
which wasn’t much more than rust.
In its belly a single ready-meal container:
twin chambers full of rain.
The water shuddered in the wind,
wobbled in its revelation
of trees, sky, everything.