‘The ones who walk away’, by Nicky Kippax


when silence falls in the dark hours

when pollinators return to hive and hole

when gauzy leaf curls and bloom heads hang

in the bowels of a forest, trees dream

of terra one

of pacts and contracts

of all we left behind –


rings counting back to old homes –

and through the slow push of time

they remember everything.


Wish-a swish-a-purl and furl-a-bud-furl. I am above and I am below. I know fenny and sog as I know tinder and spark. I shake the stems of anemone stars, tease the tongue of bastard balm and thrill our violet mice. I am expanse. I am numinous. Crowned by a skite of dappled light, I am giant swish of tree in fresh swoop of air and I am softest curlicue plume.


I slip inside and between myself – reaching and close – ripple and turn in a great, green ocean of spilled song and timbrel of timber. I am the spinney and the dingle dell. I am wold to weald and copse to coppice. I am thicket to your brush and grove to your shelter. I hide while you seek – holding all the answers but none that you will ask for.


I be forest. Forest I be.


I’m new to this place – uprooted there to start afresh here – but my memories are old. Saplings will always remember. Now I am lone spaeman and solo sage; all seer, sibyl and sooth. I hear the wind flitter through grassy musk and know which way it will turn and of what it will whisper. I am a million listening ears in a hearkening fog of flora. I know from the verdure what awaits us all, in this place.


Who is this now in my backwoods? Who comes this way in stumble-step of poppy and milkweed? Who dares to whirl about my celandine and wheel about my sorrel?


Ah yes. Once upon a timberline there were creatures such as you. Floating this way and that. Brisk and harum-scarum. You do not follow paths, you do not follow trails, you do not follow any route that I throw into light. You are amateurs with the keenest flair. Old souls. Old wisdoms. Old witchery at work, here.


In the neck of my south, your machines are closing in with proud bristle and carnal greed. They bead diesel into my bramble and muddle the peace of my primroses. The slaver of them is thick with hunger – rolling rime of rusting tongue in villainous yawn of mouth. What large teeth they have.


They sully my green, turn it brown. Foul my dog roses while steel snouts bring cower to my oxlip. They are nearing now, lurking in the shadows of darkening boughs and I see that it will all begin again.


They are you. You are they. And their happiness, the beauty of their cities, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on another’s sorrow.


I see human. Human I see.




Excerpt in italics from Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas’ (1973)



Nicky Kippax is in the final year of her MA in Creative Writing at York St John University.

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