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.
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.
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.
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.
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