No reason

If when aiming high
low is the result, that’s no
reason not to try

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Red coats

Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) [photo: Jonn Leffmann, Wikimedia]

In his dirty russet coat he must have sped
across the field earlier, but we will have missed him.
But we know he will have passed because,
look, there are the beagles streaking to the corner
diagonally opposite the gate by the road.

Now we hear the imminent clatter of hooves,
the baying of hounds, the distant bark of voices;
and now proud riders in their cherry-red coats
engage in much discussion. We sense their confusion,
their pent-up frustration, for the way
to field and adjacent common is barred
by padlocked metal gate.

They mill around, pack and riders alike;
who can fail to be impressed by smart uniforms,
the chestnut horses and tricolour hounds?
The heart may swell slightly, witnessing
a tradition spanning generations,
scarcely changing, sealed for centuries
in collective memories.

And yet, are these not the Wildean unspeakables
in pursuit of the uneatable? Are vixens vermin
to be exterminated in a ritual slaughter,
all in the name of countryside custom?

For now, I am grateful to those others
– we shall not speak their names –
who saw fit to chain their gate
and so gave Mr Fox unforeseen egress
to fields, freedom, and family.


Poem written for creative writing class assignment, Writing Ecology

Myth-laden

Golden Mile in snow

Turn left, towards the west,
in a quarter-mile turn right towards the north
onto the Golden Mile (a straight track
half a mile up, turn about, half a mile down).

Stop, look! see there,
rising high a third of a mile
into the sky, now grey-shrouded,
Foel Cwmcerwyn (that is, the Hill
by the Coombe, hollow like a Cask),
a white whale in winter, green pillow in summer,
legend-saturated, myth-laden, tale-clouded.
Here, near the summit cairn, the mighty Arthur
hunted the giant boar Twrch Trwyth and his piglets.
The blood of Arthur’s followers flowed
down the barrelled vale, steeping the earth,
slaking a ground thirsty for stories
to satisfy the land’s lonely soul.

Now, back at home, turn right for one half-mile,
then left towards the north again,
down twisty turning lanes and see!
see there, along the Preseli ridge,
advancing slowly, stealthy silhouettes
of walkers, soldiers – Arthur’s men,
silent, almost standing still –
Cerrig Marchogion, the Stones of the Knights they are,
a phalanx of sky-hued bluestone pillars
hewn, as it were, by age-old glaciers.
One hundred centuries ago south the ice sheet marched,
then retreated, scarring the battlefield, abandoning
battered bodies, leaving a landscape as bare as bone.

Not quite bare: down, under the ridge,
below unseen Bedd Arthur — Arthur’s Grave –
loom Cerrig Meibion Arthur, the Stones of Arthur’s Sons
slain by the merciless twrch.
Sentinels, they serve as signposts
directing the curious traveller to a land made fertile
by febrile human imaginations, peopled by figures
larger than life, stirring the modern mind
with wonder and, perhaps, an elusive wisdom.

Foel Cwmcerwyn, Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire

Equinox

The river’s breath creeps up
and beyond the bedroom window.
We awake to luminous daylight
on the first day of autumn.

But my mind goes back
to a different bedroom,
a different window,
a view blanked out by a white blanket
which, slowly clearing, reveals
our field, the bordering trees,
the sight of more fields
sloping to the south,
to the distant unseen sea
and its deserted beaches.

Unseen too are the late ripening blackberries,
the vixen looping along the hedge,
pausing to listen for a hoped-for prey.
Unseen are the screaming swallows
for they have departed their cowshed beams,
their third brood fed fat by the bounty
hovering above the cut hay meadow.

Here, the mist is thinning
now, drifting from the panes
outside our bedroom’s windows.
The leaves are dropped from the copper beech at the churchyard’s margin,
the dried fruits are falling from the ornamental pear
and we, like butterflies fluttering
a last hurrah in the shed,
lie wriggling, cocooned in our soft sheets
contemplating the future,
the passing of the seasons and the day
when the sun will again stand still.


Poem written for a creative writing task on ecology

The hyena and the wolf

Image: WordPress Free Media Library

The hyena was showing the wolf around his Trophy Room.

“That’s the CEO of a global oil conglomerate,” he said, indicating the head of a startled human male displayed on the wall.

They moved on. “Careful as you step on that rug,” he said, as the wolf nearly tripped over the flayed skin of a former leader of the western world whose lips were twisted into a snarl, wispy ginger hair barely concealing a flakey scalp.

They passed an internet trillionaire in a display cabinet, his stuffed body posed in the act of taking off some virtual reality glasses, revealing an obsessive, glassy stare.

“And of course you ate them before they were displayed?” remarked the wolf conversationally.

“Good god, no,” replied the hyena, dismissing the thought with a wave of his paw, “I have herds of ordinary humans available for meat, and of course there’d be no fun in chasing them, like shooting fish in a barrel.

” No,” he declared with a burst of gleeful laughter, “I just hunt those at the top of the food chain.”

Lest we forget

Symbols are all that are left:
poppies, crosses, fading photographs,
a final game of football
and a muddy field

But ask most people why it happened
and a shrug is what you’ll get;
Ancient history, you’ll be told,
and What the effing use is that?

It won’t get us food in the belly,
it won’t get the rent paid;
I can’t get a job now the firm’s shut.
I blame it on all them others,
them politicians, them blokes on the telly,
they promised us the earth,
they said it was those Europeans
who put us in the lurch,
if it weren’t for Poles and such
we’d be in better shape,
we’d take back control and be in charge,
isn’t that why we fought the war?

Flags and fields and faded photos,
pious phrases and empty words:
symbols are all that are left —
symbols,
and bitter anger,
and a sense of betrayal.