Marion Oxley is originally from Manchester but has been living amongst the flood plains of the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire for many years. Her poems are published widely in journals and anthologies.
after a Calderdale folktale of Gabriel Ratchets; spectral hounds and the hunting of Lady Sybil
who takes the form of a doe and is also thought to be a witch.
The valley is saturated, full to the brim,
a prayer bowl carried in anxious hands.
A woman strides out, walks the rim from moor to crag
sings to the wind of the substance of things not seen.
Breath dances in droplets, shapes form in a mist
spreading out beyond the black and white gates,
the lock unpicked, a question mark waiting; a cormorant
lost, sea-wings spread; a crucifix in the cold sun.
A glide of Canada Geese heads held high
hiss a warning, pink tongues quivering.
And the dog spoke of you last night
of the shiver of milk-white skin
of slender legs cleansed in the river
the pendulum swing of a racing heart
of when suspicion slid to a stop
in the moonlight the turn and weight
of your belly, a boulder flung down
from the out-crop, the arch of your hips
sprung making ready for the leap,
flames licking at your heels.
You’ll burn in hell, they said.
Listen to the thrum coming up
from underground, the hillside shifting, the movement.
In the rush and swell, push to the surface a split in bedrock.
Riven granite clouds release a yelp a howl left circling
the siren’s wail chasing tales out across the valley.
Second prize in The Red Shed Poetry Competition 2019. Published in a pamphlet of winning poems by Currock Press.
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