I’m being watched

Monkey Puzzle Tree

I’m not sure if I should say this, but often when I’m walking through the more distant reaches of the garden in the morning or later on in the afternoon I get the feeling I’m being watched.

And I am, because, if I stand still and wait, invariably a deer appears.

If I don’t move they soon grow confident and start to go about their business as if I’m not there. But if I move abruptly or make an unexpected noise I can’t believe how speedily they vanish. Two steps, three at the most and they’re gone. But I don’t think they go far because if I stand still and wait I get the distinct feeling I’m being watched again.

Sadly, so far, however carefully I look, I haven’t managed to find their hiding place. Then, just as suddenly, they must slip away because I get the feeling I’m alone.

Here is a poem about seeing something briefly before it vanished.

Because my boss is ill and can’t go
I take a bus through cider orchards
to a small brewing town. We shake hands,
introduce ourselves. All day we test
levels of fructose, maleic acid, nitrosamines.
We eat supper without your wife,
in a cafe by the lake. You’re tall, loose limbed,
do a heart stopping imitation
of the door to Stalin’s office slamming
in your Grandfather’s face.
He’d put on his best suit and fedora, gone
to protest about the arrest of his neighbour
Osip Mandelstam. Stalin saw him
walking up the street, knew
why he’d come. The attraction is immediate,
mutual, unexpected.

Next day we drink apple brandy at lunch.
A power cut. The cafe’s owner stops playing piano,
lights a paraffin lamp. When the rain stops
you steady a ladder as I cut mistletoe
in your orchard, see an animal, too large for a dog,
sleek fur jet-black, coal-black, leave the oak copse.
It crouches low by the henhouse, long tail lashing;
with a spring and soft-arch spine,
jumps the paddock gate. I hold my breath
as it drinks at the stream, vanishes
in woods. You think I’m still drunk, laugh as I insist
we search for tracks, fur on wire, the slightest
proof. (There’s nothing.) On the bus home I see it again,
carrying a muntjac. It becomes a statue of itself
the runs, magnified. Its reflection
ricocheting off greenhouses.

Sue Butler


4 thoughts on “I’m being watched

  1. Hellooooo..just a very quick thing, regarding deer, I walk amongst wild deer in the woods every day, and your deer sound very accustomed to people. However, even it sounds like they bolt on movement and noise. Well, I’ve learnt, and bear with me here, it sounds a bit nutty, but if you sing to them they will stay near listening, it calms and sort of mesmerises them. I’d suggest a soft lullaby number, so I just thought you may like to experiment with this info for your own daily pleasure!

    • Dear Jean, Thanks so much for taking the time to say you liked the poem. I know it sounds cheesy, but it really does lift my spirits when I know I’ve made contact with someone through poetry. I’m not always at my best in social situations so its great to have a poem help me out. Hope you’re having a good day. Please don’t forget your Dad today if it’s applicable / appropriate.

  2. Hello Velvetinapurrs, What a lovely idea. However, having tried it I can only assume that you are able to carry a tune much better than I can. The poor deer who have had the misfortune to encounter my singing looked startled… then horrified… then scarpered. I think I must be doing something wrong. But I’m going to stick with the concept and now have a couple of poems in my pocket. Next time I encounter a deer maybe a few stanzas will calm and mesmerise them.

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