Below Snatts Lane

Our spun dogs leapt
into a hidden swank*
only reappearing – only –
when cooled
by that glum – that cold –
woodland pond

Their wet coats stunk
Quick on spindle legs
they fast-darted in
and faster beneath
another clump of
undergrowth

Not late enough – not then –
for mist-above-dusk
over heat-sucked ditches
and almost rivers
Not late enough to rise
from dew weighted grass

We followed those routes –
those laid before
by others and left those
laid behind by us
We were those last two
travellers on earth

*swank – Sussex term for wetlands

No Eyes

It was not a pup seal
rolling at slow play
but a shingle-ripped
medium-sized dog
without legs or face –
its muzzle stripped
to uncooked meat –
a loose hanging jaw

Each short wave
was enough to turn
its sodden carcass
for further observation
by my macabre eye
to guessed-at details
and a whole back story –
lost at sea – a drowning

Our Nation’s Favourite

Under vintage leafless beeches
you gauged your variations of steps –
it was too easy to tread unevenly
on a path of cross-hatchings

and line workings against sunlight –
there you dipped into a greyed intensity
of illustrative shadowing – losing our dog –
briefly – in a denser pencilled place

Then sweet eyewashes of flowerings
lifted your head – a sugared inhalation –
a thickened spoor of air-blue scents
poured from that ancient under-storey

You stood above ten thousand bright dabs
bent to old arts across a green daub
of workings among greys and silvers –
your count of a whole year gone

was marked by a favoured calendar shot –
another easy colour-by-numbers to fill
once you made your way back to our car
to tell of your walked losses and findings

Lined

The parallel profiles
of the fifty to sixty linden trees
are bitten-thin by the wind
at this time of year

but their ever-tall alignment
of bared trunks
is still my local fixture

There – spaced by landed
strides off an owner’s count –
along this now hemmed-in route –

once a sublime wide avenue
to a grand house –
ridden up forty-ish years earlier
by a princess –
Sporting Life by her side

Now it is the route to a
sprawled estate
of modern servants
who push their buggies
and pull their dogs
along the uneven surface –

a shaded path
for the good half of the year –
for the other bared months
it is fifty to sixty sundial
shadows – if there is sun –

I haven’t counted the trees –
each a timer set by a lime
in the low winter light

Inside My Lover

I am entertained inside her lento lungs –
travelling alone and partly dusk-blind –
within her low suck of cooling breath –

I inhale her exhale of purest oxygen
and with it comes an unwinding –
an expansion of my otiose senses –

an awareness of this as existing –
of living things set around – but
obscured by the falling of the hour –

Now the manic chp-chp-chp-chp-chp
of panicked blackbirds to one side –
joined by the rude crows overhead –

that tuneless duet of birdsong is overlaid
on itself by others’ alarms and queries
which set off – concentric – around me –

As I tread – as I compact the leafy mucus –
which she absorbs into her membrane –
the fallen are re-sown by the plough
of my steps on this weaved footpath –

Her cold stew of re-use – of rotting down –
is nature’s re-design – it is not random –
be it the branched capillary urge
of saplings – or the fork of tipped boughs –

or the patterning of her cast off leaves –
already thick enough to hide the paths –
Now on cinders I miss the give of the mulch –
the weighted compress and its last sound