A Fox Crossed Barley Lane

A fox crossed Barley Lane at dusk
trotting from his den on the heath
towards the scattered Essex farms
to hunt for a springtime dinner of hens,
ducks, geese with newly hatched young.
He passed a farm labourer plodding along
the rutted track to a meagre dinner.
The fox would dine better than he tonight.

A fox crossed Barley Lane at dusk
trotting from his den on the heath
towards the prosperous Essex farms
keenly seeking a poultry dinner
from their large abundant barns.
He briskly rounded the loaded wagons
creaking along the potholed track.
His mind was on his dinner.

A fox crossed Barley Lane at dusk
trotting from his den on the heath
to seek his dinner at Essex farms and
backyards along the High Road
crossing Barley Lane as it followed
the new railway with its deafening trains.
It took more work to extract his dinner
but he always filled his stomach.

A fox crossed Barley Lane at dusk.
He left his den in the woodland patch
in the park round the Essex hospital,
hunting his dinner in the long back yards
of houses built up around Barley Lane.
Poultry was rare but cats and rabbits
were there to be eaten in moonlit gardens.
He rushed across through a narrow slit
in bumper to bumper urban traffic.
Now for his lip licking dinner.

A Fox Crossed Barley Lane

Dog’s Old Age

In the garden Nana talks
with the man who will mow
her lawns, trim the edges.
Brownie is happy to see
them in the garden. She picks
up her old brown ball in her
teeth, runs across the grass,
drops the ball at their feet,
looks up hopefully, expectantly.
They smile, say “Hi Brownie”.
But they don’t play with her.

The visitor fetches his mower.
Nana goes inside and lies on
the couch as she has often
done over the past year, while
the family talk about her
heart, doctors, hospitals
operations, rest.

Brownie has come home after
a month at her doggy day care
place , with her mutt friend Whitey
with the black ear, five cats,
two turtles, twelve budgerigars.
Now other people take her on
her morning walks. Nana rests.
Brownie rests on her bed nearby.

At twelve years old Brownie’s
arthritis is held at bay by
pills, diet dog food, long walks,
but rarely by playing with Nana.

 

Dog’s Old Age

Healthy Living

On healthy food
healthy interest
sound learning in
school and university
she raised her children.
In their adulthood
she cycled, swam,
nurtured the environment,
labouring in her garden
growing many vegetables
and abundant fruit.
She fed them to her
grandchildren. She
painted, made play dough
models with them, took
them walking with her dog
around the leafy park.

Retiring from her long time
profession she reached
out to a fuller life in
home, family, environment.

Now her energy drained
as her heart imploded
weakness by weakness as
successive genes failed.

Full of medications now
her mind and body rest
often on her bed.

Healthy Living

Robin

In the misty English rain
of a late Essex afternoon
the robin sang his piercing melodies
near the kitchen door.
From the back step I watched him
stand near the twisty knots of ivy,
singing, singing, singing.

My landlady said he was staking
his territorial claim for his mate
in their nest inside the hummocky maze
of thick woody ivy tendrils
cowling the high stone wall.
She worried  that a cat would catch them
or the fox seen by neighbours
scaling our garden wall at 3 am.

Robin had a bright orange breast,
a white belly, a tail pointing
straight up behind him, and
subdued brown head and back.
He reminded me of the little fantail
of similar size and colouring
back in my home country.
Little piwakawaka calls shrilly
unafraid of nearby humans as he
searches for tasty insects, his tails fans
out as he hops from branch to branch.

I saw and heard robin only once,
for a month later my work ran out
and I had to return home,
half way around the world
back to the home of the fantail.

Robin

From The Past

Four narrow strips of oak
frame two greeting cards
behind ivory card edging
and their mantling glass.

In lightly brushed water colours
seven geese pad along a
leafy lane on orange feet
with orange beaks held high.
Beside it gentle strokes
portray a goose with paddle
feet toes pointing inward.

This much loved montage on
my living room wall recalls
my soul mate friend who sent
these cards, her laughter at my
love of these stubborn birds.
Her hand written messages inside
them told of her daily life,
of dear friends and family, work
and community in the days of
handmade communications
twenty years ago.

She is long gone, vanquished
by an illness science can not
defeat but her inner self is
memorialised by two framed
messages from the past.

From The Past