by Sheila Hamilton

( "Jadelaine : a woman dwelling in forests, primitive, morally ambiguous." )

She lived under a man-made roof,
ate meat prepared and cooked in kitchens,
conversed in the language known as English.
She did these things as well or as badly
as we do and with, initially, as little questioning.
But she did not fit. Other people fit, she felt,
but she did not. She started to wake
trembling, leaf-like. People, the people who fit,
were barbed, thistly, their faces grimacing
on her. So when she got the chance,
she left. Overnight, became a Missing Person,
mug-shot on posters at railway-stations,
in the steamed windows of Chinese takeaways.
But missing was the wrong word.
She'd been missing all her life, she thought,
as she bedded down on leaf-litter and started
the journey towards 100% wildness.
She had never felt less missing.
The birds were unsettled, naturally,
and the animals, naturally, until they came
to smell her harmlessness. Hesitant Eater of Berries,
they called her in the languages of their kind,
either grunting or chittering, chirping
or growling. Hesitant Eater. Pale Face.
But after a while, a strange thing happened,
a thing that we'd call strange,
a thing she took for granted
in the dank and sap-filled world :
she turned green. Skin, nails, hair,
even eyebrows, even eyelashes, flushed
fern-green, moss-green, viridian, jade,
and stayed that way as she leapt over logs,
and yelped, and was happy.

Sheila Hamilton is a poet and has been widely published in magazines ; she also has a chapbook called The Monster in the Rose Garden published by Flarestack Press (UK). She lives in the North West of England with her three children, two cats and one husband. Much of her poetry draws on folktales and fairy stories. Her favourite fruit is the pineapple.

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