Those nights when the Eurostar
clanked and clattered past, tunnelling
through the night, setting the china
to clink and quake and the whole bed
to shake, when the only other people
awake were red-nosed drunks
and night workers in hushed streets,
I would look out of the bedroom window –
eyes stinging with sleeplessness,
a mouthful of gin burning on my palate,
blood stilled like wet brown leaves –
at the dull grass of the communal garden,
a spotlit stage, and wait for foxes
to arrive from nearby waste ground.
Liquid, acrobatic, a swirl of autumn,
with a feline leap from the fence they landed,
velvet-footed, spangle-faced, a mother
and kits who rolled and played, dived
and pounced on curls of dead leaves.
Parched and dusty border plants
seemed to lean in and applaud them.
Amber-eyed, he runs in and out of brightness
on tip toes in the wood, follows
familiar scent trails, downy coat
the colour of rowan berries in autumn.
The air at dusk is heavy and cider-still:
he stops, the triangles of his face and ears
spellbound, crouches and pounces
on a mouse, shakes it until limp.
In nearby fields, spring lambs were lost
to fox-raids; the farmer stalks
as his gun sniffs its prey, snarls, barks:
red explodes on the fox’s white vest.
She waits in the den with their kits:
brown bundles with blind blue eyes,
five fluffy scraps of new life
that whine softly for food.
He lies fields away, fly-blown, eyes jellied
with death, sunken and ever sinking
into the ditch where his rusting,
dulling body was thrown.