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Fireweed by Jonathan Humble

Grown wild, unclaimed and loose in lanes,
he peed higher, spat further, swore louder
than any other latchkey street weed.

Green acolytes, summoned with strangled
banshee howls, drawn to worship as he spoke
to us in bloodied tongues for a dare.

Envied for knowledge of hidden pathways
by the railway, and his dead bat in a matchbox,
which some could see for tuppence.

Pursuing the lost, always the first over fences,
through unknown undergrowth, into rank canals,
all consequences ignored in a rush for wheels.

Admired as risk taker, hands free on old bikes,
the world upside down in the canopies of trees,
a body confident in the friction of bare skin.

Solemnly, we’d gift him our bruised fruit,
liberated from the floor of the Saturday market,
consumed when the rhythms of real life paused.

No quarter sought or given, games played for keeps,
committed to blood and rain and wind and sun.
And though at twelve, his spark burned fierce,

it burned short from dying embers; snuffed out
in a consumptive breeze, warranting five perfunctory
lines of local news and a cheap cremation urn.