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

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