The woman comes in her winding sheet, her shroud. An antique corset cuts into her softening flesh, the tiny bones fragile and painful. Her nine days’ elegy begins in Blood Forest.
Her fingertips are stained the colour of mourning, azalea-dark. The soil is running with dark juices, there is dirt on the hem of her gold party dress.
She is ready to lie down.
She has researched murder ballads. Almost every traditional song is set in the forest, the woods, the corrupted idyll. The most common way is strangulation, her throat between his flat palms. Almost as popular is the knife, the gore bluing the tip of his weapon, the grass stained purple. There are ballads where there is the feeling of a blunt instrument, a rock, a piece of forest quartz, the decayed and calcified white stump of a tree. This murder ballad she is writing is for the forest itself, for the blood-red rhododendron.
Haga, the woman learns, means enclosure, a portion of woodland marked off for cutting. Haga becomes hawthorn, quickthorn, thorn-apple, May-Tree, hawberry: a supernatural portal, where the hag straddles the boundary of both worlds, is a hedge-rider or a witch or a ghost. She is a hægtesse: a woman of prophecy. Oracle.
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