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Mietta Palmer

The Old Willow

Oscar says that I have a way with words. They slip out of me like honey, always liquidy and syrupy thick. The meaning behind the words goes deeper though, the secrets that each letter holds are unique and full of wonder. Oscar says that I’m full of poetry and stories. When I write, I lose myself in all the intriguing possibilities.

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The day is Tuesday and Summer is still tucked away behind the moon. Shadows dance on the windowsills while I squish my feet into my school shoes, the ones that are becoming too small. Dad eats breakfast frantically and heaves the front door open.  ‘Bye, Sweetheart!’ A last call seeps from his lips as I start the day.

Another day of school leaves me tired and full of homework. I jump onto my bed, pop my headphones on and look at the small, glow in the dark stars scattered on my bedroom ceiling. My thoughts drift away and before I know it, I’ve fallen asleep. The evening winter air brushes me awake. Darkness has fallen over our little town in the hills, swallowing us whole. I walk down the stairs, each tread creaking as I step.

The house takes a breath and so do I. The night is still and frosty, my warm breath lacing around my fingertips. I search the pantry for something to eat. If I’m lucky, dad might’ve remembered to buy some noodles, but by the looks of it, our cupboards are empty.

I turn around on my heel when something shiny flashes in the window. Must’ve been my imagination. When I see it again, I stumble towards the window and gaze out into the abyss. I lower my head a little, my chin dipping to the ground. I spot the source of the light. Unlocking the front door, I find my way to the abandoned metal pocketknife resting on the front porch. I pick it up, curious by its mysteriousness and toss it in my shaky hands.

‘Hello?’ I yell across our empty garden. I fumble with my shoelaces and creep over to the edge of the forest. I pull my hood over my head and trench into the wilderness.

‘Hellooo?’  I walk up the old stone stairs and sit at the feet of an ancient, hunched willow. Its branches reach out to me, and I place my torch on the leafy ground.

My thoughts splash and bubble in my brain and I pull out the pocketknife and start to carve in a new haiku. The whispers of the old willow taunt me with hidden secrets as I whittle my poem onto the tough bark at the heart of the tree.

Gloomy wintertime,

A bare, quiet willow calls,

Hidden by the snow.

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The soft, nostalgic glow of the fire warms my hands. I look into the flames and see an old willow. It’s limbs naked from autumn’s stay with us. It’s rich, chocolatey bark marked with my poem. I close my eyes and fall asleep in front of the hearth.

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