Me and the Little Hand

The window I first saw as green,
Flickered, became, bright yellow
Then purple; it now shows me black –
Or – had I eyes to see it clearly –
Much worse – it might be blank.

The spirit that crosses mountains
More easily than soldiers,
That passed whispered “darlings” and
“Forevers” between us in secret
Dockside rendezvous, still
Dances in her, spills endlessly
From her in silken sheet smiles,
Trembling on the brink of more:
Adventure, climax, sin, betrayal.

It was never the window altering:
It was me: me and the little hand
Moving on.


Vixen Territory

October, birth cave of my soul; the tipping point of the year. When nights are no longer gently drawing in but rush-pushing and pressing harshly on retreating daylight, moving it along with a bullying sneer. The month of big moons, clear cold-pattern stars, new flight paths.
A month of trying to keep summer alive, burning candles at both ends, old pullovers, new fleeces and ornamental weeping acers becoming fountains of candy colours in pewter mists. Fall. Car headlights sweeping the ceilings and ghosts of the smell of smoke on the now-alien outdoor air.
I am resting after an emotionally draining day at work. Timetables switched, challenges met with a smile. Shortened dinner break, intensity. But satisfied. I can still do it. New music in the car on the way home. Still : enjoyed the lyrics and musical partnership. But the spill of light from the corner uplighter and the warmth of the gas fire are welcome. I huddle up on the floor, TV on for the sound, if not the news. It’s not company but it helps. Beyond the leaded windows the garden looks dark, mysterious and … something else that I have no vocabulary for, something dark and faerie. Enticing, but not.
Later, while at the keyboard (upstairs) I hear the vixen. I have watched this beast so often this year, admired her fluid agility as she scales fences, rolls tail in tongue and fang-filled mouth on our lawn, walks atop the brick wall, disappears at will. But now, for the first time she is intense, keening. I know of no verb for the sound that foxes make; it is unearthly, sounds to be coming from a mythical beast, a larger, more threatening animal, or a haunting, damned spirit – in tortured pain. It sounds on both the out breath and the in, seemingly physiologically impossible. She is following instinct-blood calls. Denying those closest to her, casting them out with this scream-choke coughing mantra. Obeying the ultimately foolish need to claim territory, to stake it out, make it known. That which drives her may hasten her demise, but she simply cannot do otherwise. It is the sound of frustration. Forlorn, hopeless yearning.
She is crying, as she and her sisters must do every year, for what she has lost, what has been taken away from her. Maybe she senses them this evening, those proud-to-be-crazy forebears on this same crazy-to-be-proud ritual. She may wear the skin of the rabbit stealer, hen thief, but is so much more this evening, because she recalls. Seer-like, she recalls the past and the future, travelling the kaleidoscope between them with careless-dance, black-socked steps.
She is crying for what she wants, needs, what she must have, yet cannot find. A mate, security, a day gone to be brought, magically, back and lived again. For memories, so clear they are yet to be lived. For her children, her own mother, her dances in jealous moonlight.
For the things she can never have … and never be; the glory of life that is yet to be; that will be taken from her, weeping away, maybe tomorrow, maybe in the depths of this, or next, winter.
Her song is meant for her own kind, but we would all do well to listen. And think.
11th October, 2012

Not The Same Farmyard

This is not the same farmyard I knew as a child, where (usually) cheerful men toiled with sacks, with welding gear, with drums of diesel, bales of hay, a tractor that wouldn’t start (again),: the machine shed and the patient cattle steaming in the misty, morning light. The yard that was organised chaos, that dogs, chickens and Adam, the Hereford bull, bossed in turns. The sound of Guinea fowl, the gentle lowing demands of calves and the moody exuberance of pigs.

The humming of the chaff cutter, the mechanical-but-hypnotic clanking of the baler in a distant field, the repetitive vacuum pump, pomp, pump of the milking machine. Swallows planning through the top half of stable doors in the cow-shed, spiders webs with litters of chaff entwined, the sickly sweet smell of the brewers yeast stack, the prowling, near-feral cats. No people here today, where my grandfather thatched ricks atop giant ladders. Indeed no ricks either, not even the staddle stones that they sat upon.

The place where I learned names like Alfa- Laval, Fordson Major, Friesian, BOCM and David Brown. Where fly-papers gathered insects on an industrial scale and a barn owl raised young on rats.

A single, immensely imposing tractor, yellow, somehow more like a Lego toy than an agricultural powerhouse. No trailers, no stock cattle in the barn, no combine harvester proud in the wooden shed complete with Hansel and Gretel trail of spilled grain and scarf of work-dusted hessian.

Gone to ghosthood, I hope they are happy, satisfied; for as I stand in what was the dairy yard, across which I manfully struggled as a boy with pails of body-warm milk I feel both a pride and an emptiness.

No cattle have been milked here for a decade, though swallows still balance elegantly on the same wires and twitter the same going-away messages. There is order and clean lines where there were families and humour and a pile of empty blue drums wait where the itinerant’s warm caravan used to settle each harvest time.

It still , thankfully,functions as part of a farming concern, looks cruelly efficient, the JCB is parked straight and protected from rain, the ground is level and ruthlessly weed free, the hedges neat, though flailed, not cut and  without pheasant and songbird friendly batter. Because agriculture has changed, often, in adapting becoming monoculture. It’s not wrong: business is business naturally (or not) and development happens, the weakest go to the wall or having no support are taken over.

This is not the farmyard I wandered as a child, where I learned to make some sense of life’s tapestries, where I began my journey into society and, indeed, adulthood. It is not and why would it be? Why should it be? Change is the nature of things, it’s evolution, process and progress.

But, for the few evening-sun gilded moments I am there I ask myself whether, as a child I misread the farmyard. There must have been a sense of business then. Was it that I didn’t notice it? Or was the farm, somehow, run with a more human, caring face? There are still foxes on the land, buzzards, rare then, now nest in the Lady Wood and nature turns on and on under the early evening Harvest moon: a time for thinking of those that have gone before, bless them.