River, invisible

Walking and watching

We beat a territory, my dog and I. Sometimes we revisit the same route day after day, week after week, as I find myself compelled to watch in minute detail how things change. But we cover most of it every month, criss-crossing fields, marsh, woods and riverbank, from spring to summer, from autumn to the bitter end of winter.

The dog roams and runs, sniffing, knowing, depositing, chasing, leading her mystery life of sight, sound and olfaction. I talk to my ghosts and photograph what I see. Sensations during these walks develop into poems.

I was a child in the country but for more than three decades lived in the city. I have brought my city self and my history here, to a life in a field, where I have found a rhythm for reflection, a spark to light new fires.

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September

The hunt is in our wood. From far too near come cries, blood let, belly-opening, then the ruffian basso of a huntsman calling hounds in psycho glee to order. Roam, horn, bay, shriek, rage. Again. Indecent. Foxes are plentiful at cubbing time. Wood and field marauded, rude and thrilled. And still the woodpecker hammers stupid at the telegraph pole. Sparrows don’t care. My quivering dog attends, though, ears pointed high hours after, her comfort only from my nearness and secluded, upstairs warmth. If the hounds were soldiers, the dog human, the sounds of killing of my own against my own, I would know the age-old quake of flesh in terror, coursing chemicals that beg my god to keep me safe and say I’m next. I’m next. It could be that.

Beside the field

 

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in this rut wild pansies—spacey, coy—

            empty vodka tonic tin lolls mud-scratched

fringe rotting stalks of cauliflowers

and splayed unharvestable heads, also

            probably kids here after dark

             joshing where Romans walked and cursed

obscenities of poppies—

haired stalks louche with drooping buds and striped

insinuating seed pods—nuzzle frays of

camomile

            skylarks at foreplay

while across the clodded track bursts hawthorn

celebrating sweet death smells

            and at night it’s frogs, frogs, frogs

 

 

ALIVE

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Afternoon tips out of opal, blue

floods a moonwalk stretched

as sea in snow, for miles

when she, jet black, flares up for acid

ball that slices space with ice and

catching, runs at long dog tilt over

the plain. Her yelp, my call in

starting dark, ricochet against

the glittered clench of frost, the

faded lapwings’ cries. Night drops

hard, a guillotine. She turns,

head down, for warmth and home.

Crows and jackdaws mass, their voices

raucous. Now a pearl lifts up the sky.

I crunch across my flat earth, glad to be,

and wonder at birds that hunch,

breathe, do what they can with feathers,

not to die in winter hedges, woods.