Winter’s Gibbet

William Winter’s going to die.
Hang his body from a gibbet high,
Let it swing and let it rot
For he deserved all he got.

High on the ancient drovers’ road to Elsdon
Stark against the sky, swaying in the Northumbrian wind
William WInter hung in chains, forced forever to gaze
at the site of his crime.
The gibbet still stands, now bodiless, a carved head
nodding in the noose, a reminder of the eye for an eye
justice that ruled. Not the original structure,
replaced twice as its wood was appropriated,
a cure for toothache when chewed.

Along the road a forest full of agoraphobic adders
shyly hiding in the bracken, its trees a shelter
from the winds that sweep down from the Cheviots
in early summer carrying the cry of curlews
The grisly memorial standing proud, visible for miles
from the long straight road. At night car headlights
bouncing from the dips in the road, pick it out
like searchlights homing in on a lone bomber
buzzing mosquito like.

What ghoulish imperative draws people to this place?
Do we  suffer vicariously the torment
of spending eternity locked in the place
of our greatest errors, no escape
from our mind’s constant reruns of those outdated movies
Stuck in the loop of a dialogue
that has not improved with time.
I wonder who first discovered that by chewing
its death bearing wood relief would come.