Fields of fire

Night fighters

A white beam
Sweeps the midnight fields
Like a hand searching under a bed.
Grass-blades caught beneath its bright gleam
Bristle black; a million tiny gnomons
Telling the rapid hours
Of this unwonted, sudden sun.
The woods recoil before
The engine’s heavy throb,
And poplars flare
Like burning buildings
In the tail-lights’ angry glare.

Two shots.

The echo rolls
And ricochets around the farm.
Keep your head down, Reynard;
Squeeze tight the shining eyes
That will betray you
And seek the shelter of the earth.

At half a mile, my skin grows tight
Waiting for the spent stray’s bite;

Then wonder. The hunting dog is gone
In search of rabbits on the wrong
Side of the hedge. Caught in the edge
Of that cruel light, a half-second’s untutored sight
Of that long nose and wolfish gait
Would be enough to seal his fate.
I call him, with the sickened urgency
Of frantic fathers trapped in Tripoli
When unseen hunters rip their night
With noise, and death’s unholy light.

Night vision

Night Vision

Beneath a waxing moon
And Orion like seven silver nails
Hammered into heaven,
The tawny owls’ hollow fluting,
Lonely as train whistles in the dark,
Reached me from the shadowed woods
And I smiled:
As a child
My bedtime prayer
Was for protection
From their forebears
Who haunted the beeches behind the house.
And I wished the new-hatched brood of terrors
Winging through my wide-eyed nights
Were so easily reduced
To harmless noises on the wind.