Cristina Navazo-Eguía Newton
I had been writing poem after poem about or around the wind; the wind as anything from speech bearer to rhubarbrhubarb background mutter, raising squalls or playing dead across earthly and beyond-earthly landscapes. It then turned and began to bore holes in the matter of time and, from the excavations, it pulled threads of buried stories. ‘Middledark Wind’ picked up from ruins and relics of medieval history, the witness of buildings, streets and narratives that stared me in the face in my native Northern Spain home city. Unusually for me, end rhyme here felt natural. I did not follow a prescribed form, but an instinctive pattern in three-line stanzas, set to a two-tone chime for second and third lines, with the wind-loose counterpoint of a free first line undoing the knot and shaking off the tie at the beginning of every new stanza. It played in my head like a wind-prance reeling off from a ballad. The greatest challenge in the making of the poem was the armfuls of strands that wanted weaving in. There was painful culling even after the seasonal windfall. Much like the wind, the poem resisted being locked up, and kept finding keyholes in heavy carved doors and cracks in the masonry through which it would gaily scrape out and start another barefoot pilgrimage.
before all this, back when the wind tolled bells,
tore on the spire and hung, soaked
from a gargoyle spout, lost grip and spin-fell,
went stagnant in the staircase’s throat,
and stiff against the damp of burly stone walls
learning to slide their weight
into the ground
down buttresses to be freed in stained-glass oriels
where left-out wind would beg for light.
But no sight
needed for the wind to fumble among the market stalls
fingering purses, clay pots, leather belts;
nor one farthing
to carry the cry of the barrel maker, cripples’ spells,
the virtues of comfrey, money lenders’ rates.
Not for the wind
to judge how fair the yardsticks, weights and scales,
suss out weak wine, flour mixed with dust,
or lock the cheat
in stocks for the spoiled meat, chasten double-deals
with pillory and pelted rotten fruit.
The wind’s urge
bends away from the haggle and hassle of men’s toil,
steals their bluffs and feints; it splits
into riddled lanes,
where strays chase it with doggerel about a ship that falls
into wrong hands, and a man who waits
for his ransom,
his life too dear to be paid in full. The rhymes recall
a sealed letter and a plea, but not the dates.
The name’s become
mucked tattered gossip that the wind misspells,
drags along the drainless streets,
and is shot
with trebuchets back into the high sea squalls
while Hoodman Blind forgets.
flagged down to breeze, loafs by the mill,
lets the sails halt, the stone spit
spatter of mangy meal, sullied with spills
of weevils and mouse waste.
behind the miller’s wife from scullery to well,
where she pays the rope out
down to the
shock of water. The pail stalls, rolls, fills
with a quick swig and a thrust
in a depth where the wind has little say or will.
The slack’s gone taut
in her hands,
skin thick and numb to the rub burn, and she pulls
as she would a child from a pit,
from a plague,
from hunger gaps, from the rack, last hours in a cell,
from a whirl in a river’s spate,
from the noose
and pyre, oath of fealty, bondage, war’s pell-mell,
guiles, brigandage, mauling, routs.
The pail hits
the windlass; the wind wakes from its drool,
leaps off the startled squirt
of hunted things,
the avid vault of chasers, the chase’s frenzied broil
that went, like love, from quest
to hart at bay,
from hounds held, to spearman ready for the kill,
from kill, to the undoing of the meat.
Let the wind
lick its lips, lick its wounds, lick clean the skull
of the quarry, the last treat
before the night
gathers its tired horses, carries away the spoil,
the warps and wefts of the feat.
In the curfew
of lampless dark, a sleepless wind wassails
along the stench of the moat
for more dark, bowlfuls of dark’s cold mull,
handouts of dark to break the fast.
Fast the wind
that rams the keep, breaks, and pours out of its shell,
the wind that’s left
but unkempt, a bedraggled siege machine that rails
against what cannot shift
Time, reeling its pilgrims of never-heard-of tales,
throwing the hackneyed past
to the wolves
of the next age, burying tomorrow’s holy grails
in the cesspit of forgotten lives, the lies of fools
shackled with blatant facts
in the dungeons
of the present hour. Tied to tides, the wind flails,
repents, returns the loot.
But before dawn,
it’s on bail, out with the mastiffs on the trail
of flushed flesh, nuzzling the scent
in the thickets
of the fiefs where it beats the bush, squats to prowl,
then blows its silver trumpets,
its reed flutes.
A groom to a baron, it serves him, flapping the brail
loosened from the hawk’s burst
of wing feathers,
spurring it on to the hurl of its own hot-hoofed foals,
skimming the gist of the bolt,
bracing flight up
to hoist above all earthly heirlooms, swirl and haul
a plainsong through the mist
until it meets
two bass voices that dovetail the higher call
to hover, then keel in counterpoint.
be coming in; the wind will stir like a spunky bull,
bleat like a milk-bloated goat,
low and drip; for now the wind tastes winter bile
in the apothecary’s pot,
and the mortar
where he pestles yarrow, mugwort, rue: cures for all ills
except the chronic and the last.
At the door, the wind
wails, ails, mutters ripples in a pool, drives an awl
through the hide of doubt,
and bores an eyelet
to sew itself out of the gaol of doldrums, on parole
for one stout-hearted feat:
by the quagmire
of all that is forgotten and all it can’t forget, dull
and blunt with frost, it meets the beast:
the uncial letter
in the codex’s illuminated page, red of iron-gall,
rising from the vellum sheet
by candle light,
the vision of a man who won’t lay down his quill
until the angel slays the blight.
for the antiphonies of shared vespers to heal
the moil of gothic script,
imagery of last days, the patterns braiding coils
like wind-crazed sleet,
the memory of hands
pulling woad-blue silk through the linen’s soul
for the petals of forget-me-nots,
for fields where horses charge and swords take toll,
madder-red for the bodies rent,
the undyeable tangle
of breath spilt, names called, the sea-lost gales
stitched to the last knot.