In the garden at Benmore yesterday, I did an impromptu poetry reading for Hazel and Frank, from Rochdale (who are active supporters of the Rochdale Hedgehog Rescue Society www.hedgehogrescue.org.uk).
I read some poems and we had a long discussion about poetry and walking and the natural world. I told them about about the Tawny Owls calling from the trees round the lodge I’m staying in. We talked about how eerie and yet lovely this to-and-fro calling is; and how different it is from the shrill scream of the ghostly, white-faced barn owl.
Here’s a poem I hope captures that Tawny Owl call. I also hope it will inspire Hazel to contribute a poem about trees.
There’s a hare in the rising moon and almonds
in my pocket oily with gun grease. My torch
reveals silhouettes. Shot
they acquire weight. In a hemp bag, with wild garlic
and allotment onions, their blood-soaked
bodies stain your shirt, bump against your spine,
as we breach the manor’s wide stone wall, ford waves
of machine turned earth.
A man moving slowly passes
so close we could touch him. We walk through woods
we’ve not visited for years, are shocked by the UFO
glow; eyes take awhile to adjust. A Coke can
almost trips me. A heap of foetid musk
lies mangled on new tarmac. Two cars. Three. Four.
The fox lifts its crushed, russet snout,
cries. The child I lost. Cries.
You shatter its skull
with the butt of your gun. Silence,
except for an owl, not answered.