by Andy Humphrey

Watch out for the silver man,
my auntie used to say.
She should know; she'd been a starlet
in beehive and black-and-white TV days,
brash and bubble gum. Now she's headscarves,
marigold gloves. A cigarette smoke wraith.
The silver man
comes in a big black Bentley. Down
along the waterfront, where Friday night girls
glitter and preen. He's a fug
of Cuban cigars, ripe pomade, velvet.
He took Natalie Parker
last week. Clatter on cobbles,
swish of skirt. The passenger door
gaping, a hungry thing.
The silver man
keeps a tarnished box
full of the memories
of all the fairy tales
my mother used to tell.
Strands of gold spun from straw. A stump
of black candle. A gash of mirror
from a queen who really was,
once, the fairest of all.
He'll sell them when the time is right:
the poisoned apple, the traitor's kiss,
the arcane, three-guesses name.
His fingers are grey with the taint of them.
The silver man
makes snow princesses out of wolf girls,
ballerinas from charladies.
He buries things, on foggy nights
when the chill keeps the sparkle girls
indoors. Bad-luck opals, passports. Dreams.
Crunch on hoarfrost, fizzle of match.
A motionless thing wrapped in carpet.
Watch out for the silver man, say the books.
Be sure to keep your lucky beads, your garlic.
Never wait for him at the crossroads.
Never step on the cracks across his path.
Watch out for the silver man,
for Rumpelstiltskin, Maleficent and Max.
Keep an ear for the song that'll silver you in.
Keep gin for the ache when he's gone.

Andy Humphrey is a freelance writer, law student and former research scientist who lives in York, UK. He is a prize winning poet and the author of the Poet's Soapbox blog. His obsessions include sunsets, fairy tales, single malt whisky, folk music and ornithology. He doesn't have a favourite fruit as such, but gets through a lot of bananas, and wishes there were more satsumas in the world. Andy's website is here.

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