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The Woman Who Drank Us Up               The Herdwick Ram

         Foxes           Crush


The Woman Who Drank Us Up


She was the woman who drank us up,

gripped us in her graveyard grasp and drained us,

until we were almost uncreated, loose skin and slack bones.


She was the woman who smeared our lids with honey

until blisters, sugar pink and the sweet way she liked, frosted views,

extinguished stars, volcanoes, whole shining landscapes.


Each day, we were tilted to her lips, a flawless set, to be unfilled,

she swallowed us, the bitter juices, iron blood, frothy head,

savoured her duty in the way that martyrs nurse small flames.


She was the woman who pulled down moons to make candles,

pressed them in hot was to lock in the light,

who even sipped the perfect dark of dreaming.



Lesley Quayle

published in anthology, Parents, eds. Myra Schneider & Dilys Wood,

Enitharmon in association with Second Light, 2000, ISBN 1-900564-71-8




The Herdwick Ram


As I unlatched the barn door's creaking hasp,

The grey ewes gathered, hungering, at my back,

Dawn's sallow glimmer pricked the tine and cusp

Of hawthorn crowns and slipped across the beck.

He wasn't in the clamour for fresh hay,

Nor by the mistle, so I went to seek,

Hurrying through the damp grass, till I saw

The great, slumped shadow against the lambing creep.


A rim of light, pale cuticle of day,

Peeled back the shroud of night and, naked, trembled

About his corpse. The scavenging jackdaw

Retreated where the briar thickets scrambled

Down the banking to the weedy waters.

I knelt beside him in the soft churned mire,

Clasping the thick, coiled horns,whorled tortuous

As giant ammonites, and pulled him clear.


Thirteen winters toiling on the fells

Had earned him old age in the lower pasture,

And easy forage from the brimming pails

Of plump, flaked barley; shelter, a placid cluster

Of shearling ewes. He thrived for two more years

Before his withering heart curled like a leaf

And snapped its sinewy stem. Caught unawares,

Hot tears sprung, overwhelming me with grief.


Beneath the rowan tree we dug a pit,

No knacker's hacking blade to slit and skin

The heathery fleece, or spill the ripening gut

In heavy slicks, no splintering of bone

Against blunt cleaver. The sharp spade sliced the turf.

The rowan, giving up its dappled greens

For brief fire, spilled a russet blaze of leaf

And blood-spot berries across the earthy wounds.


The grey ewes move like shadows down the slope,

Blue smoke, straight up, from ashed and riddled fires,

Dogs bark, the wild, black geese reclaim the lake,

A cockerel’s cry eviscerates the air.


Lesley Quayle

winner, BBC Wildlife Magazine Poet of the Year, 1996







A new fox has come.

The last one lingered long after

a righteous but ill-placed bullet.

Our case was airtight, forty chickens,

fifteen ducks, one ancient goose.


We had glimpses now and then,

noticed blood spots over frosty pasture,

but vengeance rose up hard in us.

We gave no quarter – quietly glad

we hand't owned the trigger finger, lazy eye.


I found him in a cleaned out coop,

skin and bone, like a sack of knives,

his mangy corpse already flyblown.

Here is the shabby underbelly of righteous

anger, this crawling picnic of flesh.


We buried him, opened up the same pit

where his victims were piled and dropped him in.

The mound’s still fresh, humped up, the soil exposed

like an unpicked scab. And now, for lambing time,

a new fox has come.



Lesley Quayle

first published inPennine Platform and Spectator, Jan 29, 2005;

in chapbook, Song for Lesser Gods, erbacce press, 2009,

ISBN 978-1-9065885-4-0








was your name sliced in the wood

of my school desk,a broken heart tattooed

with blue-black Quink, scribed R.I.P.

which exercised imagination's eye.



seem like yesterday I pleaded,

crossed my heart and hoped to die,

promised earth and sky to borrow

someone’s brother's cherished copy

of your EP.



of days, I knew the lot,

the touch paper ignited

and off I went, like a flashbulb,

flooding the dark silences

with flares of song.



Someone’s brother, seriously hacked off

by sibling generosity,

pulled enthusiasm like a tooth.

‘He’s been dead ages.’’(Hence the R.I.P.)


‘That’s all there is –

You'd better not have scratched it, kid.’


There you go and, Buddy, here am I,

You left me here, just to sit and cry,

Well, golly gee, what have you done to me,

I guess it doesn’t matter anymore.



Lesley Quayle

from A Poem for Buddy, ed. The Poetry Society,

published in Stride, 1997, ISBN 1-900152-35-5


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