The essence of magic is wandering;

the advantage of seeing the future

is not having to take part in it.

Arthur is a light in my memory,

a dim one and a brief one, a candle

lit in the corner of a room inside

a house with a thousand other rooms.

I was there to watch the separation

of the continents, that slow division

and the sea rushing in from everywhere;

I’ve lived under the ocean, and my feet

are still bruised from when I was in the trees

and leaped from tree-top to tree-top.

I was a nameless child, anonymous,

a mortal man until war drove me mad,

drove me into the forest and the wind,

into the hollow of a tree, a cave,

up a mountaintop and down a river

until I knew how it felt to empty

into the sea, until I saw the past

and drank all of it into my body,

until I climbed a ladder to the sun

and observed my bones through closed eyes.

What is a queen and her lover to this,

a kingdom gone waste land, an absurd love?

What are politics, and what loyalty?

Their poetry was empty when it came

to my real story, to preferring rain,

preferring the company of a boar,

preferring the body of a raven,

preferring life anywhere to Britain,

life under the sea, life up in the sky,

life in the middle air, life with the owls,

sucking on blocks of ice and eating stones.

My body is a fur of leaves and mud,

the pads of my feet are more earth than skin

and the magic I know needs dirty hands,

dark smoke, flaming mountains, and melting snow.

The essence of magic is wandering,

not altering history or circumstance

but sliding to the other side of both,

climbing from bramble to branch to the stars,

my soul a red apple in the moonlight.

Tim Miller’s most recent book is the essay collection Notes from the Grid. His other books include the poetry collection Bone Antler Stone, and the long narrative poem, To the House of the Sun. He is online at, and he talks poetry, mythology, and creativity on the podcast Human Voices Wake Us.