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Clootie Well

Poet: David Hale

In the forest a spring spills from a trough

lodged in the lap of a lichened beech.


Around it, trees not clad in buds or leaves

but strips of shirt, shift and scarf. 


From a distance it could be the aftermath

of a massacre, bodies hanging from trees.


Close up the place reeks of darkness, despair.

A gibbet freighted with the garments


of those who seek protection from sickness or harm,

these trees will struggle to shed such skin,


the fibres will take years to rot away.

There are no birds here only scrawled words,


the sound of water spilling over lipped stone,

the whisper of cloots swinging in the breeze.

David Hale is a teacher and carer who lives in Gloucestershire. His first pamphlet The Last Walking Stick Factory was published by Happenstance. His second, In Bedlam's Wood, won the Templar Pamphlet prize. His first collection Dancing under a Bloodless Moon was published by Eyewear in 2020, and won the Beverly Prize.

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