Home » Issues & Poems » Issue Ten » Middledark Wind

Middledark Wind

Cristina Navazo-Eguía Newton

I had been writing poem after poem about or around the wind; the wind as anything from speech bearer to rhubarbrhubarb background mutter, raising squalls or playing dead across earthly and beyond-earthly landscapes. It then turned and began to bore holes in the matter of time and, from the excavations, it pulled threads of buried stories. ‘Middledark Wind’ picked up from ruins and relics of medieval history, the witness of buildings, streets and narratives that stared me in the face in my native Northern Spain home city. Unusually for me, end rhyme here felt natural. I did not follow a prescribed form, but an instinctive pattern in three-line stanzas, set to a two-tone chime for second and third lines, with the wind-loose counterpoint of a free first line undoing the knot and shaking off the tie at the beginning of every new stanza. It played in my head like a wind-prance reeling off from a ballad. The greatest challenge in the making of the poem was the armfuls of strands that wanted weaving in. There was painful culling even after the seasonal windfall. Much like the wind, the poem resisted being locked up, and kept finding keyholes in heavy carved doors and cracks in the masonry through which it would gaily scrape out and start another barefoot pilgrimage. 

Middledark Wind

Before this,

before all this, back when the wind tolled bells,

tore on the spire and hung, soaked


and white-knuckled,

from a gargoyle spout, lost grip and spin-fell,

went stagnant in the staircase’s throat,



and stiff against the damp of burly stone walls

learning to slide their weight


into the ground

down buttresses to be freed in stained-glass oriels

where left-out wind would beg for light.


But no sight

needed for the wind to fumble among the market stalls

fingering purses, clay pots, leather belts;


nor one farthing

to carry the cry of the barrel maker, cripples’ spells,

the virtues of comfrey, money lenders’ rates.


Not for the wind

to judge how fair the yardsticks, weights and scales,

suss out weak wine, flour mixed with dust,


or lock the cheat

in stocks for the spoiled meat, chasten double-deals

with pillory and pelted rotten fruit.


The wind’s urge

bends away from the haggle and hassle of men’s toil,

steals their bluffs and feints; it splits


into riddled lanes,

where strays chase it with doggerel about a ship that falls

into wrong hands, and a man who waits


for his ransom,

his life too dear to be paid in full. The rhymes recall

a sealed letter and a plea, but not the dates.


The name’s become

mucked tattered gossip that the wind misspells,

drags along the drainless streets,


and is shot

with trebuchets back into the high sea squalls

while Hoodman Blind forgets.


The wind,

flagged down to breeze, loafs by the mill,

lets the sails halt, the stone spit


one thin

spatter of mangy meal, sullied with spills

of weevils and mouse waste.


It dog-lags

behind the miller’s wife from scullery to well,

where she pays the rope out


down to the

shock of water. The pail stalls, rolls, fills

with a quick swig and a thrust


to drown

in a depth where the wind has little say or will.

The slack’s gone taut


in her hands,

skin thick and numb to the rub burn, and she pulls

as she would a child from a pit,


from a plague,

from hunger gaps, from the rack, last hours in a cell,

from a whirl in a river’s spate,


from the noose

and pyre, oath of fealty, bondage, war’s pell-mell,

guiles, brigandage, mauling, routs.


The pail hits

the windlass; the wind wakes from its drool,

leaps off the startled squirt


of hunted things,

the avid vault of chasers, the chase’s frenzied broil

that went, like love, from quest


to hart at bay,

from hounds held, to spearman ready for the kill,

from kill, to the undoing of the meat.


Let the wind

lick its lips, lick its wounds, lick clean the skull

of the quarry, the last treat


before the night

gathers its tired horses, carries away the spoil,

the warps and wefts of the feat.


In the curfew

of lampless dark, a sleepless wind wassails

along the stench of the moat


in return

for more dark, bowlfuls of dark’s cold mull,

handouts of dark to break the fast.


Fast the wind

that rams the keep, breaks, and pours out of its shell,

the wind that’s left



but unkempt, a bedraggled siege machine that rails

against what cannot shift


or change:

Time, reeling its pilgrims of never-heard-of tales,

throwing the hackneyed past


to the wolves

of the next age, burying tomorrow’s holy grails

with not-found-yet


white unicorns

in the cesspit of forgotten lives, the lies of fools

shackled with blatant facts


in the dungeons

of the present hour. Tied to tides, the wind flails,

repents, returns the loot.


But before dawn,

it’s on bail,  out with the mastiffs on the trail

of flushed flesh, nuzzling the scent


in the thickets

of the fiefs where it beats the bush, squats to prowl,

then blows its silver trumpets,


its reed flutes.

A groom to a baron, it serves him, flapping the brail

loosened from the hawk’s burst


of wing feathers,

spurring it on to the hurl of its own hot-hoofed foals,

skimming the gist of the bolt,


bracing flight up

to hoist above all earthly heirlooms, swirl and haul

a plainsong through the mist


until it meets

two bass voices that dovetail the higher call

to hover, then keel in counterpoint.


Summer will

be coming in; the wind will stir like a spunky bull,

bleat like a milk-bloated goat,


Summer will

low and drip; for now the wind tastes winter bile

in the apothecary’s pot,


and the mortar

where he pestles yarrow, mugwort, rue: cures for all ills

except the chronic and the last.


At the door, the wind

wails, ails, mutters ripples in a pool, drives an awl

through the hide of doubt,


and bores an eyelet

to sew itself out of the gaol of doldrums, on parole

for one stout-hearted feat:


by the quagmire

of all that is forgotten and all it can’t forget, dull

and blunt with frost, it meets the beast:


the uncial letter

in the codex’s illuminated page, red of iron-gall,

rising from the vellum sheet


by candle light,

the vision of a man who won’t lay down his quill

until the angel slays the blight.


He’s longing

for the antiphonies of shared vespers to heal

the moil of gothic script,


the fevered

imagery of last days, the patterns braiding coils

like wind-crazed sleet,


the memory of hands

pulling woad-blue silk through the linen’s soul

for the petals of forget-me-nots,


woad-and-weld green

for fields where horses charge and swords take toll,

madder-red for the bodies rent,


the undyeable tangle

of breath spilt, names called, the sea-lost gales

stitched to the last knot.

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