His feet were already swollen; he stumbled, half fell, found himself at a place where three roads met. In silence. No breezes stirred the branches of the circling oaks, no water sprang from in between their roots; only - there was a fissure in the rock, and the fire that flowed from deep beneath his feet flamed from this fissure, searing the face and belly of a woman seated at the meeting of the roads. Roads are borders; the feelings that converged across his winter cracked another border deep within, a line he'd drawn when women laughed at his anxiety. The woman here was silent, her agony interpreted by coilings of grey smoke, slow but scoring deep into his throat and loins, that strangled him, felling him (on all fours; he drew himself erect, fell again, supported on one hand, clutching at his throat). He looked up, finally - saw her wreathed in smoke and flame, saw her lifted by the neck by one bright thread of fire, nooselike, flung down, silent still. He feels a liquid trickle streak his face, trace its course down through his beard. He feels pain tear his eyes, his body shakes; his loss becomes a fever deep behind his features... and he can't know if the huddled shape is gone or not, he can't see past the first thick layer of smoke. He can't distinguish trivia from a goatsong, sinking, eroded by winter and a long patience deep in the hollows of his falling, deep in the part of him he'd rather remain unaware of. He fears silence, but lies briefly in a cat's-cradle of quiet weeping.
( to the contents page.)