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

This Parish

We stick to the leaf-kicked route –
a parting of the dry sea of leaves
cleared by dog-following boots –

We tack down its meandered drop
to the time-softened abyss –
plugged not by God – but drains –

where a watercourse once hollowed
the hillside into this shallow dean –
before the slugs of tarmac upstream –

Here the irregular plots of silver birches
ignore the fallen old lady in lime green –
this is the parish of ineffectual giants –

these natives – a copse within the woods –
are a finger-daubed fearful tribe in white –
chary – waiting – as if standing ready –

listening for the infected invaders
from other places – for intruders
who will bring other such followers

to spread the canker and pestilence –
which was not the way things changed –
not until we changed the weather

The Impatient Plant

The Himalayan Balsam’s scent
clogs – a laundry swill of smells –

lingering – invasive – out-of-place –
underlining the call to action –

Since its foolish introduction
it’s no longer welcome here

Almost sticky – swollen with pollen –
it waits with near-primed seeds

until it fires ripe-wide explosions
finding further incursions

Balsam Bashing – its removal –
is now a nationwide fixation –

The bent stem-cutters – the pullers –
are impatient traditionalists

who tug – with gardening gloves –
working hard at their final solution

Late Out

This dessicated path
is an off-white scar
under the moon’s phase
of waxing gibbous

Boots and tamed dogs
have worn this route
into a grass-bare map
which I read by that light

The holding flightpaths
of man-made meteors –
of ephemeral accords –
circle among the clouds

The transmitter mast blinks
with a beast’s red eye
shaming Arcturus and Mars
so even those stars fade

This as the bypass hums
a song of our war won –
our tilt against creation
by over engineering

Dew

There has been no rain overnight
but the underfoot dew is enough
to darken both my boot toecaps
and to soak the dog’s knotted hair
as she bounds into blind prospects
of hedges and low distractions
And I look up at the underbelly
of another aircraft on another path
and do not envy their chosen route –
I then shout out for the dog’s return.