We feared the moss. We hollowed out
our ancestors and packed them with it,
left them smouldering in bark canoes.
On terminal moraines we blessed the moss
as herald of the thaw. Our children
got down on their knees to kiss it.
Kind moss insulated our pagodas,
bedlinened the herder on high pasture,
kindled grubby smoke for sacred visions.
We combed the moss. Our mosseries
were envied by the Emperor himself.
Spore cases, every size and colour, hung
like fireworks. We bred moss patiently,
too subtle work for human lifespans.
In the war we mulched the telegrams
demanding anaesthetic or poison moss.
Our holy valley stayed unoccupied.
Today, the only sound above a whisper
is the meal-gong. I meditate at night
on whether we are really growing moss.
Our mystics say the moss is growing us.
John Clegg's e-chapbook 'Advancer' is published by Silkworms Ink; a full collection is forthcoming. He was born in 1986 and lives in Durham, where he studies for a PhD.