Hardcastle Crags

On Meeting a Stag in Hardcastle Crags | Poetry

by Northern Life

Daniel Pardoe, via email

It was nearly dusk by the time I headed back,
The pale rocks lit by the moon,
As I hopped across the water,
Clumsily uncertain in the half light,
The trees rumbled and shook,
nervous giants in the shadows,
towering over everything,
waiting for permission to move in the darkness,
Things slid into the lapping brook,
unseen in the cover of night,
a suspicion of rat, or mink,
Up ahead, brambles crouched,
hidden from view,
nursing their spines,
I was alone but for the frozen company of a singular breeze,
Agitating the holly leaves,
Flattening the heather,
Then up ahead,
a devil stepped into my path,
As tall as a man,
his high broad horns reaching into the canopy,
I saw the breath fog into the night,
the low rumble of greeting,
Saw light strike from his black eyes and felt my time slipping into the stream,
This broad bodied stag stared me down,
confident and huge,
I stopped utterly silent in the lonely woods,
He considered me for a count of four long, long seconds,
Beneath contempt was his verdict,
then, as if to add insult to injury,
Turned ever so slowly,
And paced defiantly,
Back into the cover,
Of the undergrowth.