Monday, 1 June 2015

July Woods

   One afternoon in late July
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 cool
I 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 tree
A 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 yard
And 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 pet
For 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 found
Beside 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


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