Gillian Spraggs
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Dane Head

Axe Edge Moor
You’d think that this was the crone’s country:
unpromising, empty, disfigured by heaps of slack
and the sunken scars of old mines.
Mumbling, tatty grey sheep look at you sidelong
with that same resentful glare
you see on certain old women.
The wind up here smacks you over and over with a giant palm
of ice; the light is failing; still, hang about, look closer.

Here the earth is dark red
like dried birth-blood on a baby’s scalp,
and the young river
runs dark as wine or blood.
The bilberry leaves are reddening, and the unlikely grasses
are glowing like heated steel: straw, gold, red.
These burning points of light, pink as new coins,
are the turning ling; while the gritstone spalls at the roots
show pink and sunset-ochre, under a sunset sky.
Where does the river rise?
Follow it up, the glinting furrow, as it curves its way
between clutching holes, among foot-bending tussocks of grass,
as the light wanes, as the wind drubs at your flank.
You can scarcely doubt it, it’s a fool’s quest, this one,
certain to end in a bog.
Somewhere, not far, a bird calls, harshly derisive. Otherwise, all you can hear
is the wind as it gusts through the moor, and always the low
whisper of trickling water.
When the stream forks, you must choose your course: the left-hand branch or the right? but it makes no difference. As the colours break down in the dusk, you will come, wet-foot, on a patch of light spilled on the moor, as pale and almost-round as the moon growing bright in the sky, two nights from the full. Pick your way over; plant your feet within its quaking verge, and gaze, gaze while it fills you, overflows, then stoop; dip your finger and mark your forehead coldly with an old sign, with a circle that means everything and nothing.
Gillian Spraggs
Published in The Coffee House, Issue Fourteen, Spring 2006
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© Gillian Spraggs, 2006
page added to site on 25 February, 2006 | last modified 24 November, 2006