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Lovers' Leap

Lovers' Leap
by Oliver Smith

We walked in the woods and you said:
There’s a lady in the ancient ash
upside-down down she dangles
with her heart-sap beating
with greener passions in the shadow.
Her long toes flexible
as spring willow
and wrapped around the branches
in the canopy
where crows and rooklings roost.
Her body’s dressed in ivy growth;
dragon-foot leaves curling tight
about the voluptuous pith and root:
her limbs and bark and heart
ripened in the new born sun.

Mrs Nightshade is in the thicket
down by the Roman stream.
She winks her witch’s eye
and flexes three-foot fingers grey
and gnarled like old bone-oak poking
through the Trompe du Mort.
Her thistle-down breath
whistles in her spider-teeth,
as you pass she taps her nails hard
as belemnites in the limestone hollow
by the stonebreaker’s path
where her children
chase like woodlice
through the fallen leaves
in the coppice all gone wild.

Then you said come to my nest
High up in the linden tree.
Where you lay your head upon my shoulder:
Your hair curled like woodbine
binding in the bough;
and on your breath the scent
of foxglove, valerian, and monkshood
all flowering in the wood.
and you said “now you have met
my sisters I suppose you can stay.”
And the hollow stemmed hemlock
growing in white-star clumps
rattled their dried-up heads
and gossiped in the absent wind.

* * *

Oliver Smith is a visual artist and writer from Cheltenham, UK. His poetry regularly appears in Spectral Realms and has also been published in Illumen, Eye to the Telescope, and Three Drops in the Cauldron. His prose has been included in anthologies from, among others, Flame Tree Publishing and Ex-Occidente Press, who also published a collection of his short stories, Stars Beneath the Ships. Much of his previously published work is collected in Basilisk Soup and Other Fantasies.

Oliver is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Gloucestershire. His website is at

Where do you get the ideas for your poems?

During the warm summers I would often walk a road through Cranham Woods coming home from the pub in a neighboring village: late at night, in pitch-black tunnels of
trees, glowworms would come out and shine like little green stars in the dark. The Beech, Oak, Linden, Ash, Hazel, and Willow grew thick with ivy, woodbine and wild
clematis and the air was full of the smell of wild honeysuckle blossom coming from deep in the trees.

When the trees thinned and I emerged into moonlight I passed Roman ruins and Saxon furrows still visible and knew even older barrows and earthen fortifications were hidden deeper in the woods. The geology of the hills was Cretaceous and Jurassic - at the Fiddler’s Elbow, overlooking the Vale of Gloucester, fossil limpets, urchins and cockle shells spilled out of exposed patches of inferior oolite in the disused quarry.

In those wooded silent places on warm summer nights geological time, pre-history, ancient history, and the present all intertwined like the wild creepers and vines
growing over the trees. I thought I could grow roots deep into that soil too.