Says the Green Man – David R. Morgan

I burn with desire,’ says the Green Man.

On weekends I help my Dad look for his soul. He says he needs it now because he is about to become an angel. He can feel his wings almost beginning to unfurl behind his back. He says he used to be a wizard of words, or a giant poet (the story varies from telling to telling), and, as was the custom for his kind, he put his soul into an egg (or perhaps a stone) for safe-keeping. He hid the egg (or stone) inside a duck (or in the belly of a sheep, or in a tree stump), and so long as his soul was safe, his body could not be killed or wounded.

“Oh,” he says. “I was the greatest terror of the hills. My words ate the hearts of knights,” or sometimes, “I lived in my high tower and none dared oppose me, and with the reciting of my poetry I could turn stone to mud and water to boiling blood.” Or sometimes “The earth trembled with my every image.” He said this almost wistfully. “But now I must become an angel or else the earth will tremble and tremble and tear itself apart.”

My Dad is seventy eight (unless he is hundreds of years old as he claims). His bearded face is covered in dark freckles, liver spots, and moles, and he says that each blemish marks a year he’s lived beyond his rightful span. All he wants is to find the egg (or stone) that houses his soul, so that he may break the egg (or crush the stone) and die.

I burn with desire,’ says the Green Man.

I asked Dad once, while we looked for his soul in the waste bins at the park, “How could you misplace your soul?”
“I hid it so well, I forgot where it was hidden,” he said.
“Seems like a hell of a thing to forget, Dad.” I said.
“When you don’t have a soul,” he said, “It’s harder to know which things are important to remember.”

We go out every weekend. He’s old. I am his only son, although his dementia means that he doesn’t remember who I am. Mum sheds a tear for the husband she has lost to legend and dementia. Dad and I are companions for one another. He tells marvellous stories. Although he never did, it is as if he once taught mythology, though he tells the tales of gods and heroes as if he saw it all firsthand.

Once he found a robin’s egg on the ground. It must have fallen from a nest. He held the egg in trembling hands, cracked it, and yolk spilled out. No soul. He shook the egg off his hands. Bits of shell fell to the ground. He wiped his hands on his trousers and went on looking, picking up rocks, dropping them in disgust and frustration. At times the light flickered and made it look like he was about to take flight.

I burn with desire,’ says the Green Man.

We go out every weekend; looking for his soul, so that he can become an angel, so that he can save things. We walk the length of the town and back, but somehow the earth never trembles…only me.

‘I burn with desire,’ says the Green Man, ‘I burn with desire,’ says he.

Author David R. Morgan teaches 11-19 year olds at Cardinal Newman School in Luton , and lives in Bedfordshire with his wife and two children. His eldest daughter lives in The Isle Of Man.

David has been an arts worker and literature officer, organizer of book festivals and writer-in-residence for education authorities, Littlehay Prison and Fairfield Psychiatric Hospital (which was the subject of a Channel 4 film, Out of Our Minds).

He has had two plays screened on ITV.  His books for children include: The Strange Case of William Whipper-Snapper, three Info Rider books for Collins and Blooming Cats which won the Acorn Award and was recently animated for BBC2’s Words and Pictures Plus as well as a Horrible Histories biography: Spilling The Beans On Boudicca.  David has also written poetry books, including: The Broken Picture Book The Windmill and the Grains (Hawthorn Prize) and Buzz Off.

His poetry collection Walrus On A Rocking Chair, illustrated by John Welding, is published by Claire Publications and his adult poetry, Ticket For The Peepshow, is published by art’icle.