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Poems by Jillian Ramsay Stern

The Hag

A hard bitter lot they were.
Harness soft and worn..
Rievers they.

Returning from a foray.
Not much to show,
empty hands, angry mouths.

"I tell ye Jack, it's the hag.
She's done us in
Wi' her mou' sae grim."

Jack glowered, neither right nor left.
It wasn't a good day
when Armstrongs came home empty.

"Jack!  Ye'll na gie her grief!"
"She's gien it us, aplenty too."
Grim the face that led.

Came they did to the hag's wee croft
Again, "Jack let her be.
Nae good shall come o' it."

"Hag!  Come ye oot!"
A faint keening in the far away...

"Hag, gin ye na cam oot,
I'm for gettin' ye an' drag ye oot."

The keening, closer...
"Jack!  Let it be.  Let's awa'."
The keening yet closer...

Jack heard it not.
His anger deafened him.
He heard not the warning.

Hasty looks over shoulders.
Surreptitious blessings,
Aves and Pater Nosters.

The hut door opens,
like the rictus
on a dead man.

The keening, nigh...
the hag appears,
like the ugly tongue of the rictus.

Explosions of gasps.
Thundering hooves.
Jack is alone.

Unseeing, unhearing.
Seeing only the cause
of his shame.

His sword roars out,
for the hag's fluids.

The hag points,
"Ken ye who I be?"
"I ken nor care not!"

The keening, behind Jack.
The hag warps and grows
grand and grim.

His sword flees his hand.
He feels the fell force
of the keening spirit.

He can't move.
His horse is frozen.
His heart pounding.

"Ye cannae mock the sidhe
an' live tae sing aboot it."
She now dwarfed the hut.

"Jack Armstrang, ye're tae dee!"
Flame leaped from her finger.

The men pelting for home,
saw the bright sky
and felt the tremor.

And knew their Jack
was no more.



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