:: Article

outlawry: crimes to be performed within the ancient bounds of sherwood

By matt martin.

from outlawry: crimes to be performed within the ancient bounds of sherwood


seduce one of the sheriff’s men when he wakes up alone all his clothes have gone missing he’s sewn up inside a stag’s hide its head lolling on top of his own when he gets home and removes the skin he finds his flesh covered with a butcher’s diagram delineating cuts of venison

electoral fraud

infiltrate the counting team at a by-election by skulduggery arrange for the ballot boxes to hold not ballot papers but an equal number of leaves from sherwood while wind scatters the actual ballots across the forest floor count up the different types of leaf after long deliberation the sheriff must announce that having seen off a challenge from the silver birch the major oak is member of parliament for bassetlaw

counterfeiting notes and coins

hand carve precise replicas of coins from wood ash for one penny beech for tuppence alder for five pence beech for ten poplar for twenty elm for fifty oak for a pound spend on each one an amount of labour worth far more than the duplicated coin take the counterfeits with you to worksop leisure centre use them in vending machines to buy crisps or chocolate bars of your choice

attempting to injure or alarm the sovereign

a few days before the monarch opens the new sherwood forest visitor centre locate a footpath that the royal guest will use pollard an oak there saw through the trunk ten feet above the ground but leave the crown in place resting in perfect alignment upon the trunk no one can tell that the tree is decapitated then set moles loose around the oak’s roots these little gentlemen in their black velvet waistcoats undermine the tree soon the monarch draws near lean on the trunk it will tilt easily sending its crown crashing into the sovereign’s way

offender armed or disguised

manufacture thousands of tiny caltrops steel globes with spikes each caltrop the size of a conker slit open a similar number of horse chestnut fruit replace the seeds with your caltrops sew the capsules shut strew the disguised weapons across the great north road wait in ambush for overconfident drivers to try crushing the seed pods with their tyres

possession of class a or b drugs with intent to supply

find a job at a garden centre     take a van out delivering squares of turf   scatter psilocybin spores across particular sods in the client’s garden lay them out in the correct pattern     when the mushrooms grow     they’ll create a mosaic on the lawn grey fungus forming negative space     surrounding the grass visage of a green man

contamination of goods with intent

infiltrate the staff of a fast food burger chain prepare ingredients from the forest in response to every order instead of a quarter pounder serve in a bun the mushroom known as poor man’s beefsteak instead of chips serve chanterelles fried in butter with wild garlic the salad is young dandelion leaves milkshakes are made with september blackberries

concealing birth

find a doe giving birth in the forest appropriate the caul when the birth is complete confuse any nearby hunting dogs by cutting the bloody caul into one strip for each performer present the performers leave in separate directions with their pieces of meat that evening reconvene for dinner serve up the strips fried with onions

prison mutiny

this crime goes far beyond the pale the pale being a fence round a deer park gather windfall of fruit from throughout sherwood let this ferment for a few weeks smash the gate of the deer enclosure at a stately home leave a trail of alcoholic fruit leading up to the mansion and prop the door open a pyramid of boozy apples in the middle of the drawing room floor

endangering the safety of an aircraft

gather sacks of sycamore keys sneak onto the runway at doncaster robin hood airport empty the sacks into a jet’s engines when the plane takes off the seeds blow across airport grounds reseeding the ancient forest some may even remain in the engines for long enough to be expelled when the plane is airborne these helicopter down to land far from the airport spreading this performance over several square miles

conspiring to commit offences outside the united kingdom

humanely capture summer migrant birds the willow warbler the swift the swallow the house martin and redstart around one leg of each bird bind a tiny printout of one of these criminal plans free the birds they fly to their wintering grounds there the messages fall into locals’ hands thus these crimes are performed overseas such a crime being this one keep an eye out for it wrapped round the leg of a redstart returning from africa be ready to perform it again

matt martin is the author of spider bite (Kater Murr’s Press) and full spectrum apotheosis (Contraband Books). He self-publishes works of concrete poetry as eocene press. Work has featured in exhibitions like Visual Poetics (Saison Poetry Library, 2013), Wall of Miracles (University of Exeter, 2013) and Drawing Breath (Ziferblat London, 2016). matt has run poetry workshops in infant schools and also writes children’s stories which he performs as part of his job at a London museum. He is studying Poetic Practice at Royal Holloway, University of London.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, May 1st, 2017.