Too Many Dogs
Too many dogs in my ancient Toyota,
all sensing the beach ahead. I park
illegally by the lifeboat station,
where men on the beach rehearse
mouth-to-mouth. I lean on the car in
my toadlike coat, yank open doors,
bony sacks of dogs flop out. I lose track
and count of my benign pack,
finger lick poo bags open. A dog’s life
is shorter than mine, and in their short time,
I own nothing, am a guardian practised at loss.
And when I get right all their names,
one dies and another arrives: love, lose
and love again. We walk corridors of sand:
the dunes lose so obviously, their gains surreptitious.
I drive off and the dogs stick their heads out
of windows; coats ruffling, taking in the breeze,
and on the last bend before home, they swap places.
April is winter, weighted with new brightness,
reaching through branches to hidden empties,
the frozen yard, its blue flowers under rusty trees
and shit up to the door. Hunger is our problem,
haylage was a price and now we rent
fields of winter beet. The frosted lambs get up
from sleep-melted circles; one squeak from the gate
and they pour off the hills. Farming is about waking up
one thing and not another, yet it all grows at once:
lambs with rotten cloves; brassicas with moths.
Oil on the shed floor. Blood from a cracked face—
the Off Licence miles off. Last night thaws:
I had tacked the chainharrow to the Landrover,
spun around the fields, music banged as lambs
foamed in the hedgerows. However neglected, they all come
to look, I mean I, we, they, all come looking, the same.
My own stupor and horse stupor:
its side-eyed focus, black retina,
the cornea shining with twin fields
of tight grass. Pelt sprites snag
on barbed wire. High gaps with
cloud-sectioned prism mist,
distant rainfall— side-hauled,
ghostly, rhomboid. A winter of bracken,
lichen, blackthorn. Wind pelts rain-morse,
wired to my blood. The diffuse tarpaulin sun
is cold, more like a moon. Yellow gorse
scours a hedgerow. A gap as big as
a man, paths hoof-stumped
into compact mirrors. The horse checks me
for succour, food, something better
than grass. To us what’s weird
is horse normal. My compass scouring
north. I invent what I find, eating grass.
My Sweet Bear
My sweet bear, I have made a crown
of hazel and wisteria. It is sweet, how pollen dusts
your lovely eyes. How poor I am without you
as my spectacle. How like your cub I am,
sniffing the ground where you were: there you are,
there you are not, there you are not again.
Who will teach us to make meat of living things?
You would bounce and stand a chance but for your chains
which chink back and forth through their hoop.
I hold your head down and pull out your teeth.
How alike we are when you are up on your darling legs.
How you walk as if getting the hang of high heels.
You look at the sky as the only way out from the dogs.
I take your crown, and your pain doubles,
and our kiss fills us with the blood of the world.