sheena blackhall

(18/8/1947 / Aberdeen)

Of Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes (3 poems)


In Memory of Sylvia Plath Hughes

The Black Prince of Paradise brought you to this place,
Where Cromwell's Ironsides were bread and buttered,
A stone's throw from the cockpit in Church Lane
Where Wellington's troopers gambled on the cobbles.

Rowans are a red mush upon the road.
The orange slates of leaves roof gloomy wynds.
Dykes with their pie crust stone keep sunlight penned.
Families are walls, closed ranks, compacted tightly.

A woman with a whippet Belsen face
Tells me The Overspill' is your address....
­Boneyard where Doctor, Tosspot, Fool, St George from Sowerby,
From Hope Street, Nest Estate lie down together

Miss Golden Lotus, did you ever guess
Your bridlepath of Prussian dressage led
To nettles that would sting you if they could?
Fame's a scoop in a ladle, sourly swallowed.

A mean grave to contain such a Colossus!
Near you, cheek by jowl with Annie Sutcliffe,
A prickly holly stands, a dour Druid,
Pointing to Pogley's Barn, to Chestnut Cottage,
To Thwaites White Lion Inn, its rampant sign
Bidding the traveller stop and sup real ale.

Your blanket is a primrose chewed by slugs,
Riotous ferns, a shock of maidenhair
Burned by the brands of Autumn.
Dock-leaf quilt hides silver coins
You're never going to spend.

A mildewed ring, a plastic string of pearls,
A mirror, pencil, tiny cowrie shells
Wink up through wet and weed...a keyholder
Of Marilyn Monroe in flying skirts.

Up to the neck in centuries you lie,
In marble vest of bone and wooden shirt,
Stuffed with the clay of England.

This is your kingdom now,
Your power, your glory
Here, where the leaves fall down
And will not stop.


Elmet: for Ted Hughes

Billows of sheep-fields curve above grey clouds.
Only a bird would choose to winter here,
Where homes are land-locked nests
Driven into the turf and pith of the hill.

Only a hunger after fallen Lucifers
Could dog the sunken river to its source,
Where grass pours off weir walls
Like withered hair.

Cobbett could have ridden on these roads,
This strange, bipolar landscape.
No half measures, you're either tumbling down or toiling up.

The blue sky seems to be a place apart
A slice of Heaven, laid down like a lid.

Beech trees anchor their roots, unleash their rigging.
Brambles congeal to shrunken clots of black,
Fern fronds hunch, like hermits with the ague.
Parson Grimshaw's Methodist legacy
hangs fire, where dismal chapels slowly fall
Into the heath of Haworth, Heptonstall,
Hardcastle Craggs, Crow Hill and Abel Cross.

This landscape was a poet's crucible.
He knew where salmon leap, why foxes call.
It was his clearings, his complexities,
His faults, his glories, rooted here, like oak.


Hebden Bridge

Each house wears a sooty face of brick
Smudged from the funeral pyres of textile mills
The slow canal's a snail Eating its own tail
Each road is a fair's big dipper
That women with thighs of steel ascend like moles

Gravity flicks off clouds from mountain shoulders
To hotter in the cauldron of the vale

The Inn of the Fox and Goose lowers its hanging basket
Bucket of petals into the day's well

Brambles shrivel like raisins
Like old mens' foreskins
In the sere Season,

Submitted: Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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