The Annual Scarecrow Festival

The Annual Scarecrow Festival
was cancelled this year.
In the field before you enter the village,
there is one left over – a sign warning
last chance for a hundred miles.

Unofficially, they made them anyway,
fleshing cast-offs with fistfuls of straw.
Gouging out their eyes with peeler, scissor;
scoring their face on sack-cloth, pillow-case.
Back-boned them on garden rakes.

They appeared in detached streets,
behind net-curtained windows, waving.
Stood in the post office queue and it did not dwindle.
In The Landlord's Daughter, pint pots glooming,
no one serving the no one drinking.

In a stalled tractor, in a quiet lane,
one slumped over the wheel –
thick of its head torn,
protest of orange pulp on the screen.

They sat in rows in the classroom,
oozing through the backs of wooden chairs
made for children, staring at the blackboard
of an abandoned lesson.

In The Wyndham, the village theatre,
the scarecrows took their seats,
rustling their applause for the scarecrow players
from the stalls to the Gods.

Nothing hit them yet, no smell
of orchards burning, of summer failing.
The footlights fed on the nearest actors,
the bundles of their ankles.

The fire ran for the grinning front row,
like a whisper through string between tin cans.


Through dark country fields,
passing one left over
like a mast in a storm,
they entered the village and found
cars and houses stalled,
no one in the pub or school.

In the cemetery, in the rows,
heads in the mud, heads in a hole,
they splintered the first box and saw,
where the body should have been,
only a broken hat, black slumps of clothes.

Published in Apex