Open Land, Hollow Way

Faded autumn lines are rigored sharp:
Trailing bramble leaves white-traceried,
Defined and crisp in winter death,
Sharp-needled stems, bough-breaking
Heavy, frost-swollen from inside;
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A terrible pale beauty lies, fallen
On the open common land –
Othered, penetrated cold and dry by frost –
Ringing hard and brittle as old anvil iron;
A shimmering hoar across its eastern flank,
Northern face long-shadowed steeper ground,
Down to the hollow way with
Frost carpets deepening, untouched
Except by ice, each hastening the other;
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A barely-loosened grip, lessened for
An hour or two, by day, by winter’s sun, itself
Mocked distant impotent as darkness
And the patient night return, the
Infinite eternal sink of entropy;
Blackening, licking into unprotected flesh,
Creeping into bones, chilling, freezing marrow,
Slowing heartbeats, thickening sluggish blood,
Leaching warmth and with it life;

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Though shelter is nearby, and hospitality,
Not too far for hope for us, unconditional
In our human sharing confidence,
Heat-fuelled, at least for now;
May we make it? Please.

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