by Kathryn Hargett-Hsu
Peak District, 2018
November will pummel you if you let it.
Beneath it: a stain you can’t scrub off
& gales extorting the moors. You wear
your thickest socks. On walks to the clinic,
you stomp your reflection in crowns of rainwater.
You arrive alone & without your shadow,
that wet animal still pinned to a mattress in Lenton.
When you’re sober, you feel it try to claw-&-knee
home to you. You don’t want it anymore.
It bleeds when swabbed. You prefer the loneliness
that arrives in the wide expanse of days
& piles from one appointment to the next—
it squints at every mild face & sustains the husk
growing around you. When asked, you answer.
You flat mood. You deny your scent. Early on
you vowed not to spar for a stranger’s last lock
of empathy, though you often mistake compassion for pity.
On non-clinic days, you buy a ticket to Hope.
Spray-painted sheep wander as expected.
They eat what they eat. No one expects much
of you, dark-eyed foreigner. You indulge
in their erasure of you. November bristles
across your cheeks’ fine fur—rain darkens the gritstone—
the moors mud. You walk slowly to avoid the cut.
But the cut isn’t a cut—it’s a laceration,
& it will not abandon you just because
you’ve fled to higher ground. Again,
the cutting weight of it wrings out
that photonegative self—not your shadow,
but the anterior record of your shadow.
She wears exhibits 15-19 & an olive coat.
She trails beside you in the gusting
peat moss, at times silent, at times whispering
in a tongue you hardly know. You would like
to discredit this self. You would like
to indulge in the lashing & tonsure,
to braid a jute rope & petrify her beneath brutal peat.
Be kind to her. Like other evidence, she will
be destroyed in seven years. She appears to you
because something inside you wants her
to appear. To say: yes, the ladybeetle did meander
across the frosted window—& yes, the nurse’s name
was Natalia—& perhaps the world is kinder
than its inscription upon your back.
After a while, she stops whispering. Again, the glazing wind.
Again, the jute rope’s open question. You continue
to walk through misting rain. The self follows
the rain. Turn your head. Tomorrow,
she will sit beside you at the back
of the waiting room. You’ll wait for a nurse
to mispronounce your name—a woman
who believes you, & who you will never see again.