Background

York in Poetry: The Green Man

Posted on 24 November 2012 | Poem, Audio

Each evening, his labours at an end,
the green man
catches the number ten bus
and makes his silent way
through the glistening, lamplit streets.

I didn’t realise
it was him at first,
muffled under moss-coloured wool
and capacious, earth-stained coat.
But that musk gave him away:
the autumn-scent of crumbling bark and badgers,
brown as leaf-litter, heady
with mushrooms, moss and leather. The air
tastes of tilled earth as he passes.

I sneak a glance
when he’s not looking, try to make out
stray twigs poking
from under the cap, the stubble-fuzz of lichen
on his jowls, the weatherbeaten
crags of brows. I picture great fat hands,
hoary, ripe as apples,
curling up hedgehogs into puffballs,
scuffing truffles, turning insect-teeming logs,
bedding in horse-chestnuts until spring.

In cracked grey hobnails
he disembarks like rustled leaf-breath.
A flavour of loam and windfalls
lingers in the air behind him:
the must of seasons turning,
festivals,
harvests.

- Andy Humphrey
taken from ‘The Green Man Awakes’, published by Stairwell Books