> Crow and the Grey Spike - Dave Hicklenton

Crow and the Grey Spike (photo: Rob)

Crow and the Grey Spike

Gimlet grey-eyed Goshawk on gaunt draughts of air,
Wheeling, wing-slinging swoop over sharp stabbing branches.
Tumbling flight on pale dappled light, and the
Flesh-hungry stare.
More coiled steel than living thing, the peat in his veins,
The beck’s trickle his laughter and the unsprung unsung unsure bounce
Of the heather in his flight.

The fear of hunger drives the kill.  The crow laughs to see the man
who runs.  Who runs not from fear but silence.  From words almost said.
Who runs for reassurance. 
To feel more alive, less dead.

A tattoo of stabbing.  Pointed pick peck cuts to eye and cheek,
The startled doe’s unknowing gaze and the blood-flecked
Hair and fur and face and
footsteps fall and come and pass
and men and women flatten grass
and reddened feathers fleeting, fly.
A snake of humans passes by.

There’s Nixon and Addyman, Birkinshaw and Sanderson,
Frost, Jones and Cassidy, Murray, Paul and Anderson.
Fleet foot frost flecked muddied shins and bloodied shins,
Clouded breath, clouded gaze, milky sun, wet mist and haze.
Fraser, Fraser, Burton, Hayle,
Robson, Stephens, brown peat trail.

And then…
Then a

The quiet rushes in and the crows wheel and clamour.
There’s a view, a rush of wind, and talons stretch to grasp the branch.
Suddenly there is movement: 

Slipping through the firebreak
On sideways mulching needles
The snake returns, the steaming sweat
The Adam’s apple-bobbing strain.

Irving, Robson, Eggett,
Vollans, Green and Kivlehan
Gammack, Telfer,  Coxon,
Fletcher, Hart and Stephenson.

Dirty tramping steamers
With salt caked shirt backs
Flash a smile, a wave, a nod
Studs split twig and turf and sod.

Distant clouds storm the horizon and the hail clad summit bites deep.
Merlin, Grouse and Hare unwind from Sett and Form 
And there is silence.

Then slowly, from the verdant groove above, there are returning footfalls.
Nixon, the Yorkshire hare, speed and sinew striding soft in front of
Stolid hounds. 
Pursuers drip into view, one by one.
Cautious, smiling, benign as the soft mizzle drifts from spruce to larch.

Gaps too large to close, the scent weak, the trails cold.

A Buzzard’s outstretched wing-fingers  wide,
Bank away south, from ‘keepers to hide
Where Castle-kept  owl, red squirrel and hart
Are musty guardians of the taxidermist’s art.

Crow laughs once more, six feet tall in his world
His crown of thorns shared with Red-Backed Shrike.
He wipes his beak, pinion feathers unfurled
As he skewers his prey on the Great Grey Spike.


Dave Hicklenton, March 2008

(In the style of Ted Hughes)

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