Escaping heat oppressive as a weight
I sidetracked through the woods; unruly
Crows squabbling and hoarse with their flapping gait
Watched me go before clattering to
A poplar’s crown; from there they threw
Harsh catcalls at my disappearing pate.
Sunk in the wood’s enshadowed coolI revelled in its shipwrecked, piled disorder:
The massed leaf mould like lumps in gruel,
The fallen trunks and boughs like a breached border,
The sharp-toothed bramble and great ferns
Gnat-ridden, with a sting which burns,
The cow parsley, its blossom gone to powder.
High in a feathery locust treeA caramel jay kept guttural watch;
A chessboard magpie warily
Flitted beneath a hazel in a ditch;
Suddenly a blackbird sprang
Out of the path dust and, mad-young,
Flew to a branch, scolding from its safe pitch.
I sidled to within a yardAnd stared at it; it stared at me, unruffled
Now, preening but watching with hard
Dark eyes like agate. Touching-close, its scuffled
Feathers, dusty-black, and pick-blunt
Yellow bill conveyed the primal hunt
For life – the ambush in those bushes muffled.
For this young blackbird was no petFor children’s cheer; its drilling eyes revealed
A vicious sole intent to get
Food and mate. Implacable and annealed
By hunger its reproof was less
Because, though killer-merciless,
The knowledge of its own death was concealed.
To prove this point I later foundBeside the path a battered blackbird, dead;
Torn open by some fox or hound
It lay in blood with maggots in its head:
That young cock with his vaunting eye
Having butchered will himself die
And the woods mulch him where he fell and bled.
====================© July 2013