The Magpie Wheel

The Children’s Fire – A Poem

The Magpie Wheel

By Robert Holtom

It is a four-bar gate with carved insignia, like ivy creeper, and through the bars you look, you hesitate, because the train was slow and now you’re late. But it doesn’t matter, and you know that too, so enter and walk the pocked tarmac road, go quick or go slow, just know you are home, and all of you is welcome.

There, down in the field to your left, just before the wood, is Aelfi’s well, dug deep, dug true, in memory of a soul we lost too soon, and just next door the orchard of almond trees, who knew they grew in such a clement breeze, a seed not a nut wrapped in a shell encased in a hull, a metaphor, perhaps, for the soul, or the heart, something protected, something sweet but vulnerable to frost and heat, and onwards till you see the valley, that glorious vista, how you have missed it, fertile as the future, old as yore, and there in the distance, Hay Tor.

Left down the path bordered by bushes and bramble till the gap in the hedge, ‘twixt alder and sedge, only two gates now, a field in between, and there we are, all of us you have seen. We are a circle of people in a circle of stones, woman, trans, male, child, elder and younger, you take off your shoes, the grass tender, and you take my hand, to gaze at the centre, upon that small pyre where we make our offerings to the Children’s Fire.

A pledge of our council, makeshift as we are, to undo the trauma and hold all in our arms, to never do harm seven generations hence, to be the people we have been waiting for, looking to four directions, and three more, our feet on the earth, our skin touched by air, our bodies an ocean beating with fire, this is the world we hope to inspire, as we each hold a stick and place it in turn amongst the flames so it can burn and transform locked potential to heat, intent to deed, willing the world, god speed, as our hulls fall away and our shells crack, the seed exposed to grow again, just as the world turns.

Clouds chase the sun as rays chase the rain as we make our pledges again and again, lest we forget the promise we make, a world with no giving and just one of take, but remember we must, be it sunlight or frost, to keep the fire burning so no more children are lost.