I stop the sh sh across my page
to watch a squirrel nuzzle the ground
all auburn fuzz, nose down
re-checking the co-ordinates
on a mental map for a nut called X
the shrubs wear their prettiest bonnets
of permed seed heads, legs
black stockinged from stalking
the late summer rains
the lawn has had its last trim of the year
shaved into an Italianate maze.
A four spotted ladybird comes to my sill
I lend her my pen for a bridge
I am curious
now there are six spots
two on the edge of her shell
as if about to fall off, and they do
with a shiver, she splits
into a pair of dash away wings
taking her back to her home.
I carry on with the sh sh across my page.
We are standing on a bridge, stones glued with aged lichen – but there are gaps, cracks, openings. Momentarily they are filled; memories, past walks, listening, naming the times, heaving our packs, unburdening, speaking our lives. Now we watch the water, hear the clatter of river over rocks and on the edge – the plosives.
drop their cones
The chatter of visitors, a sense of floating
incense that drifts the day-to-day within
the great cathedral, vaulting ascendant, encrypted
valour turned cold on stone plaques.
But I am not here to launch a crusade
as I weave through rows of stacked plastic chairs,
I find her in the darkened shadows tucked
behind a pillar, the Madonna with her Child,
niche discreet, away from prying eyes.
I wonder if she is made of polished marble
or some other blackened stone, not coal
but to my touch, she’s a stilled warm ember,
her texture, the flesh of ebony wood.
I catch the scent of sweet milk as her child
nuzzles her breast. She looks at me as if to say,
‘so now you have found us, leave us in peace.’
The grouse are chortling
as we three clamber and slip
and they, in that know-it-all way
at a white wedding,
chatter beneath the brims
of their whipped-up hats.
On one side of the track, on risen knolls;
the shooting boxes. No sentinels
at the butts today – their weapons arrested
hung up in the gunneries while
the beaters in their stockinged feet
dub their boots in tallow light.
We make out the rise of the hill
thickened with snow
but not that we are watched.
Silent eyes, hair ears, twitch-flighty
sizing up our dog
as he bounds the tussocks.
A buck hare, fleet as speed
flicks a ‘bog cotton’ tip
as we hear a yap, a yelp
on the slippery bog.
Our dog is a laughing stock
– a new subject for the grouse of Black Hill.