Equal words said by a crooked tree

When beaded droplets,
Resting awhile on leaves
Wafted gently by eastern breezes,
Come to drip, light that slices
Clouds above greying asunder
Enters and emerges as broken,
Split for a moment into new things,
Colouring the spare pallet of the autumn day.

Sodden air quivers at the
Audacity of nature’s humour
That comes too late and
Expectant in the afternoon.
Woodland unearthed: a figure emerges.

Squelching with mud clinging
To the underside of two boots,
Cloaked in moisture,
Gait of reluctant involvement
In something greater than his sum.

Not quite vertical,
A naked tree stands slanted,
Bolstered by long since active roots,
Casting a shocked shape
Like a crack in the sky.
This being the centre point, the meeting place.

Leaving footsteps to be filled,
The tree’s knotted anxiety
All-presiding, snipping
The heavy air into many damp sheets.

It was to be his word
Triumphant, shouted by his gun.

Shuddering with each squawk
Or scuttle, life detrimental to focus.
Creaking wood groped by capricious winds,
Leaves shaking, the lightning struck oak
Staying quiet, watching.

A second figure emerges.
Hair scattered and swinging
In moisture,

Face obscured but belonging
To an outline cut from shadow.

In the wake of this second figure,
With the first figure
Having assumed a position
The side to which the slanted oak leant,
Trailed a legion of followers,
Holding signs and banners and pieces of ribbon.

The first figure hadn’t expected a following.
He fears the procedure of the duel
Might be compromised.
The second figure stands opposite.

In a language no longer relevant,
The first figure reiterates the rules of engagement,
All of which are already branded
On the bark of the leafless oak.

Both then approach, plodding
Towards the centre, bowing, turning.

After twelve paces the two spin,
Drawing their weapons and
Shouting their words.

Neither weapon fires.
The two words are shouted again.
No gunshots still.

Both figures now petrified and
The followers growing restless and
Shouting words of their own, to no avail.

Variation ensues and the duellers
Exclaim in desperation words synonymous
To their original choices, all still to no avail,
Despite volume, conviction, and venom.

The guns turn limp in their hands
And are promptly discarded.
The shouting continues, both figures
Edging closer towards each other.

Now an arm’s length away,
One word gives way to another,
Turn taking happens,
Volume and spite diminish and
The words start to sound similar.

The two representatives, one of
Himself, the other of thousands,
Embrace, at which point
Two gunshots clatter through the woodland.

No birds fly in distress,
The wind lets up,
The crooked oak straightens,

The crowd descends.

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