The Hitching Stone
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My Side of the Story

Come and sit down. Let me tell you how it was...
The Serpents Tale
You want to hear my side? That makes a change.
Your people wrote that it was all my fault
and no one asks if what they said was true.
I am a serpent. I eat voles and shews,
some birds a rabbit and an egg or two.
I've never really gone for fruit and veg;
I'm sorry it's just not my thing you see.
He asked for trouble if you want my view.
I really don't know why He picked that spot
to plant His best and favourite apple tree;
right in the middle - plain for them to see.
With all the world to choose, He puts it there!
I didn't eat the apple or tell lies.
I said that if she ate she would not die
but might not see things as she did before.
I gave her no advice beyond those facts.
Of course there was a row that afternoon
but I am sure they were not sent away.
The garden didn't change; they still lived there,
but through their eyes, perhaps it never looked the same.

I am a clerk within the Court of Love.
Come with me, I can explain as we walk.
A courtier...? No, that would be much too grand;
I am a man of papers, diaries and lists;
inviting, greeting, seating and leading
petitioners along the corridors
and labyrinths they hope may lead to joy.
I do not attend upon the Queen herself
and yet I saw her once, you know.
I was in that anteroom - just over there -
cross-referencing and filing as I do
when suddenly, straight through the door she came
with lords and ladies glittering in her train.
She did not speak, I never thought she would,
but as she passed she turned and smiled at me.
At me alone she smiled - you understand?
For that brief moment, true love smiled at me.
She can be cruel as well you know.
They say when she gives them sealed packages,
her smile lights up the wrapping and the bows.
I send them home aglow with expectation,
though I know half are filled with ash.
I sometimes hear her laughing as they go.
But I should not be talking out of turn.
We have arrived. You must sit there and wait.
You may be called. Today perhaps tomorrow,
if not you will be on my other list
and shall bring you back to try again next year.

They come to me for many things, you see,
a little Goutweed, Horehound and All-Heal.
Some Yellow Rattle for a barking cough;
I boil it with the root of Butcher's Broom,
or Colts Foot and some Common Marjoram.
A bridegroom came to me with smelly feet
and married wrapped with Hare's Foot in his shoes.
I used to have some Bucks Horn too somewhere
but rabid dogs are rare now in these parts.
Others will come for Snakeweed late at night
when tooth ache makes them pace the bedroom floor.
I add White Poppy to it then for sleep
and Periwinkle for the dreams which come.
In winter you can use black mustard seeds.
At harvest time I pick St Peters Wort
to have it ready for the twisted backs
and Clary too, which strengthens as it heals.
So many girls now come and talk to me
about a child who is not meant to be.
I give them Pennyroyal with Iris leaves
but cannot bring myself to take a fee.
I wonder if that unborn infant knows
the bitter, wormwood life it has been saved?
No one comes here if they are not in pain;
from giving birth or working or old age.
Black Hellebore when raving madness comes
and Moonwort for our bruised and fractured limbs.
My herbs, you see can make the hurting less
and ease your passing when the time has come,
but as for life, for that I have no cure.

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