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.
Out of it
The dull, another-day-dawns groan
From the endless procession
Of gleaming, rat-racing cars reaches me
Across a quarter-mile of fields.
That was me
Out there, on the road, at about this time.
Not now. Nor ever again.
Not if I can help it.
Maybe I’m less
Than I might be, should be:
While I walk in these cold woods
The world runs on without me
And doesn’t seem
To feel the loss.
I can live with that.
I call the dog
Run up the hill,
Dry leaves cracking like early ice
Beneath my boots,
Through wedges of dusty sunlight
Driven between the fading hornbeams,
Loving every moment
Of my virtual commute
To what the world pretends
Is real work
But I know
To be simply an illusion.
Someone in a lab
Is looking through a lens
At a smear of blood and lymph.
An anonymous clutch
Of nameless cells
In search of an identity.
A blackthorn snapped off
And driven deep,
Barbed-wire tear, unseen blow –
Any of the litany
Of injury attending dogs like him
(Long on legs, short on brain)
Might have forced the flesh to swell
Into the hen’s egg
That now lurks, submarine-sinister
Beneath his velvet skin.
Or something else:
That single drop
From the tablespoonful the syringe drew off
Will tell all.
So we await the blood-work
Wondering what they’ll find
And how much we stand to lose.
Il fait du brouillard
The blinded lighthouse
Calls out in the gloom
Its foghorn telling the misty minutes
Like a doleful speaking clock.
There’s a Hebridean sting of salt
In the sea-smoke wrapped around the headland
Like a scarf; and the summer beaches
Are veiled and secret, empty, Arctic white.
The gulls and waders could tell me
Where I am; beneath the sky-cloak
They chatter heedless, brash and jeering,
Safe in their local knowledge.
Not that I’m asking. A dog, the dunes
And the distant booming of the surf
On the reefs far out are all the signs I need:
I am here. Now. And all is well.
Seen from inside
Is a grey hell:
Trees in full leaf flayed by a west wind
Thrash and hiss with spray
A ten-tenths sky leans on the land
Like a drunkard on a doorpost
And next-door’s downpipe
Mumbles an ostinato in its throat.
I stand under the wood’s dripping eaves,
Smiling warm, watching the hunting-dog
Gun down rabbits in the wet field.
No rain reaches beneath my hat-brim;
My jacket turns the wind’s blade like a shirt of mail;
In these boots I could wade a river.
No such thing
As bad weather:
Just the wrong clothing.