(For Sylvia Plath)

Heptonstall chalks soot –
blackened stone cottages on the Hebden river
as he passes, sidewalk art
on a sheen of rain sopped black top –
people, factory stacks, and the cobbled bridge
bleeds to a smear

along the bankside; only boat bobs
betray a current. Passersby do not scuttle
from his path, he wipes fury blank as an eraser
swiped slate on his face, screeches
the proper details onto the board,
mimics each smile and nod,

weaving past them along the bridleway. Stamping
sparks like a steel U shoe, his anger
blends with the herd’s tread:
heel rapped echoes dwindle at his back –
a vessel of sound sails a seethe of green moor
and is lost on a sea

of heath and peat bogs. He hears
nothing of their demise. Ahead crowds thin,
odors of earth rise. Millstone crags

peek out from the tree tops,
stacked as the bracken fungus
that clings to those sycamores and oaks. Moss slicks

rocks that clutter the riven world, veils
stone features like her skin envelops him.
She battles to conquer her flesh again, watches
approaching grasses quill air in the distance, moiling
their defensive greens through a break in the trees.
Walking out of the woodland

at Walshaw. Stoodley Pike looms
on a distant moor as she snaps
into her human husk, emerges
from the leaf-strained gloom.
Her body is his cocoon;
he’ll rip free once it’s used.

© Shawn Nacona Stroud

* This poem was previously published in the issue III.6.2. of Here and Now


Hardcastle Crags is a wooded Pennine valley owned by the National Trust. 

It lies approximately two miles north of Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.