Coup de foudre

My days no longer play out as they should –
No water-bowl to fill, no wrapping warm
In winter coats to walk down to the wood –
A cheerless list of tasks I don’t perform.
I miss your warmth, your velvet fur, your eyes,
Rose-petal ears and pointy needle-nose,
Sounds and expressions. Now I realise
How much a dog takes with him when he goes.

The axis that my world revolved around.
A lightning-bolt that briefly touched the ground.

Viggo. 20 July 2009 – 27 January 2021.

Vulpine

By field and farmyard
Shaw, copse and spinney
Bridleway and holloway
I am Fox.

By garden and playground
Twitten and cul-de-sac
Bypass and underpass
I am Fox.

By seeking and scavenging
Raiding and thieving
Nourished and famished
I am Fox.

By swiftness and subtlety
Stealthy and shadowy
Running and cunning
I am Fox.

By covert and country
Hounds, horn and hunters
Followed and swallowed
I am Fox.

By midnight and daylight
Highways and byways
Glances and chances
I am Fox.

By legend and fable
Knowledge and hearsay
Neighbour and stranger
I am Fox.

By adapting and enduring
Shifting and drifting
Thriving and surviving
I am Fox.







Honesty

I dreamed of horses – chestnuts, bays
And dapples; any horse would do.
And Fortune smiled: I spent my days
Among them; it was all I knew.
I went to war with renegades
Who revelled in the ancient fight;
Found lion-hearted friends who made
My life complete, the whole world right.
We herded cattle, hunted, stood
Before the judges in the ring;
By hill and river, field and wood:
My everywhere, and everything.
And part of me is clinging on
To this belief: that going back
To that life would reset what’s wrong
With this one; that I only lack
That presence; and if I restore
That stable centre, then my mind
Would know the ease it did before
And I could leave my cares behind.

But if I’m honest with myself, set sentiment aside
It’s not the horses that I miss
But being young enough to ride.

Too close for comfort

There is no right time.
Definitely no good time.

Whenever it comes
We will look back with regret

Wish we had done things differently
And moreover, never had to.

But the moment has always been there –
Buried in the small print

Of the pact we entered into
All those years ago

Never once imagining
We’d ever have to live it.

Having had a heart murmur for a number of years, our beloved whippet is now in congestive heart failure. No longer a case of if but when we will need to make A Decision, and probably sooner rather than later. I know there are many bigger, and far worse things happening in the world now: it’s still hard. Dogs are wonderful, but they do put you through it sometimes.

Misdirection

We do not write poems about dogs –
Not, at least, if we want to be taken
In any way seriously.

Dogs are not sensible, grown-up subjects
For sensible, grown-up writers.
They are not issues or arguments

But the stuff of rhymes we write at school
Like sunsets, springtime and the sea
The root of all doggerel.

No. Instead, we stick to abstractions
Write loftily of love, fidelity, domestic intimacy,
Age, infirmity, and the bitter, plunging agony of leaving

While carefully kidding ourselves
That we’re not really writing
About dogs at all.

Dream horse

Let me walk out of this dream
Into a field just touched by morning
There to find a fine horse standing
Low gold fire on his dark back.

I would approach him, hand held out
In truce. Gifts given, he would deign
To have me stroke his arching neck,
Speak softly in his all-hearing ear.

He would understand; we would be friends.
In his bulk and warmth and strength
I would lose my fears, my smallness,
Forget all other things.

He waits for me, quiet and patient
Just beyond the edge of thought.
But still the fence broods, high and solid
And I cannot find the gate.

Lines and sentences

 

We know what’s coming
From the pictographs and hammered posts;

Spray-painted warrants of execution;
Whole acres marked for death.

But who will tell the trees
Inform the flowers, tip off the birds and animals?

If I could, I’d pick them up
In my two hands, spirit them away

But I’m condemned to stand and watch
The steel blades bite, the heavy wheels shake the earth

See all I’ve know and come to love
Torn up, despoiled and thrown aside

Entirely unconsoled by knowing
There was nothing I could have said or done.

Kite

Easier to count
The days I don’t see your lesser kin;
Familiar, worthy of a look, a nod
Like neighbours passed in the street.

But you. What wild wind
Blew you out here;
A foreign shadow falling on the field,
The crows in uproar, the air alive;

All things made smaller
By your breadth and heft;
The flash of copper on your wings
The glint of a drawn sword.

A wanderer from beyond our bounds,
Rarely seen and half forgotten.
But you are surely welcome, stranger.
The great world turns. Not all is lost.

 
 

Buzzards are common as sparrows rouhnd here these days, but their larger cousins, red kites, are still pretty rare. I saw one today, though, for the first time in ages, set against a bright spring sky. Of such true and noble things is happiness made in times like these. N.

Dog dreams

IMG_0363

He sprawls
On a deep white sheepskin.
The black stove’s heat
Draws him back
To summer days, spread like a blanket
On the sun-warmed sand.

Feet flick in sudden spasm,
Galvanised by phantom rabbits:
In this new universe
He wears cat’s claws
And in the treetops
The squirrels have stopped laughing.

One eye upturned
Haw-hooded, a frozen pool.
Deep in his wordless mysteries
He runs alone, unowned, unmastered
On private paths and secret ways
I cannot know or follow.

Rictameters

IMG_0363

Dusk

The day
Grows weary now,
Decides to call it quits
So draws the clouds across the sun
And shuffles into twilight. Blackbirds call
From treetops but it does not turn;
Just fades away and leaves
A lonely world
To night.

 

Hounded

Your race
Is not against
The clock; no pack or prize
Impels you. All you have to beat
Is deep pain, your own doubt, the wasted days.
Recharge the lightning in your limbs,
Relight your inner fire:
I long to see
You win.

 

Revisiting rictameter. The second poem is for my beloved but somewhat banged-up whippet, who’s three weeks into a month-long convalescence from surgery to secure his left shoulder, which he dislocated in a fall at the beginning of April. He should make a full recovery given rest and time, but it’s going to be a long, slow job. Thank goodness for pet insurance…N.