Dark Peak

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.  


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