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This article is taken from PN Review 244, Volume 45 Number 2, November - December 2018.

Mapping the Woods Rebecca Hurst
‘… woods are evidently places propitious for wandering,
    or getting lost in, all woods are a sort of labyrinth.’
                                  — Francis Ponge,
The Notebook of the Pine Woods




Parson’s Wood, Mayfield, East Sussex
Longitude: 51.061001; Latitude: 0.308827



I. Winter solstice


(21 December 2009
 sunrise: 08.00 am
 sunset: 03.54 pm)

Between dark and dusk
we walk to the brink of the year,
an iron-red line on cinereous clay.

Hands cramp with cold on the old road
as we sketch and note this half-hour
past sunrise but not brightening
though the rooks are awake and jigging
on the frosted shoulders of a broad oak.

Pass a nip of brandy, roll another smoke.
Make a mark
and a mark                        on the damp page.

This winter’s day the wood is a room,
screened by snow, shuttered and barred,
                                                   nothing doing.
Yes, we feel the Parson’s coppiced acres,
feel the challeybeate and charcoal in our bones.

Three walkers, we beat the bounds,
talking of other pilgrimages:
the vixen’s path
                        the vole’s path
                                     the roebuck’s.

From the knap of this hill the wood
is perspicuous. It holds a pose:
the line of golden larches, the net
of branches the beech casts to the sky.

Count the ways in:
the tracks and driftways,
...


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