And so the party, long worn and tremendously weary,
Set out quietly into what remained
Of the old countryside. Through the blurry screens of their sleep-encrusted eyes
The moor loomed uncertainly — dull, dark, and impenetrably vast.
The sky above lay pigment-thick, all traces of night’s blue
Muffled in steely gray, the faintest possibility of light
Completely obliterated, as on those long, dreary January nights
Marked by incessant snowfall. Even their footsteps fell
Soft and soundless, sinking into the damp
Earth as they rustled through unseen grasses and shook off the clinging
Fingers of thorny underbrush from their boots. If you thought
About it in the right way, the night was almost pretty, almost touching —
Gorgeous, even, in the wild fear of its wide eyes. It looked just like a child.
Somewhere beyond the old fencepost, the wind got all the stars to join in howling
At each other. It had been ages since they hadn’t cried themselves
To sleep. Branches scraggled and whapped at their pantlegs, at the songs of
The crickets — the crickets choked up startled at rabbit feet thumping softly
In the weeds — the rabbits hid while the moths flickered their wings
Like the few feeble stars that still managed to shine out through the smog.
They had nearly forgotten what this sort of silence sounded like.
It was so rare these days, so lost behind the roar of
Bursting shells and broken glass and screaming, hate-filled eyes.
So sad and fragile and moon-soft. They did not break it, marching single file through the dark. Broken bones, broken promises, broken people, broken spirits — they were so very tired of the sound of breaking. They would not break this.
One by one, rustling through the underbrush and the purple shrubs,
They picked their way across the field and hillocks
Deeper into the abandoned wastes of the moor before them,
Shoulders burdened but hearts fortified, at least for the time being. It was too dark
To see the blood on the ground, or even their own weary bones and purple-lidded eyes,
But still they looked up at the stars — silent and wrinkled and gold — still they listened to the silence — unbroken and silver and cold — and dared to hope.
Salvation lay ahead, somewhere along that long and weary road,
And it had only to be believed in.