the heft and the edge                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     10/6/2020





Chase and Catch

      (a life of Cleo)



Beyond my fence

The barley rolls and quivers,

But not with that tell-tale wake of fleet foot.

Summer is up: abundance on show,

Trees are doubled, the verge becomes

       forest; green nature

Explodes skyward,

Transforms bare earth.

And all is noise of life

In tree and sky and quick-slapped thigh.

Birds call their many needs:

       finch, tit, thrush,

Blackbird, crow, the cuckoo still

       sings his own praise;

Blackbird, brown bird, gold bird:

Songs of all colour.


And over all the knowing Sun

Shines benevolent,

Pleased to have brought this on,

Grinning, malevolent.


The air warms a promise of happy days:

Entertainment.  In gardens hoses twitch,

Charcoal glows and the smell of baked flesh

       raises sizzle of gluttony.

Inside, among the bowls of rice and potato salad,

A Bowl of crystal, plain beauty, filled with cold water,

Clear with glitter of fins:

A promise of delight,

Enticement until shooed.

But outside

There is so much more:

       Birds fly, mice run,

       Swans ride water; coots; geese;

       Voles, shrews, water-rats.

Outside, beyond my fence,

Across the fields,

A flicker of grass is hidden treasure,

And the tell-tale splashing, Oh

They move so quick,

But not so fast as she.

They have weapons of defence

To reduce her offence;

They too hunt: biters can be bit.

Rabbit babies, though, have none,

Nor chicks, ducklings,

And butterflies, Oh

Too aching bright to leave,

And curious toads best left

Yet so like frog morsels.

A field of pleasure:

Action incarnate she plunges in,

White devil full of chase

And catch,

Ignorant of price.

And when her day is done

She darts back in with gifts

Seeks snuggles,

A hollow between two loved ones,

And speaks bright notes

       in statement, in query,

And warm, warm rumble of safe content.


And days pass by

The same, and same

The winter comes and goes;

Years journey through our lives.

Her happy curse: she never loses,

       year on year,

The joy of hunt; never loses



There are other predators.

Not alone the sparrowhawk

and owl: Larger, weightier

Foes lie in wait,

Set traps and



Whatever may be passing by:

Both quarry and the occasional

       heedless devil.


No more to squirm

Like tickled child,

No more to sneak in,

       muddy or wet,

No more to bring a smile,

Deep smile.


And I look over that calm beyond my rural fence,

See the peace of Summer and know it for what it is:

A mask for the brutality of life, and death:

The biter bit.

Somewhere, out there, fox bit

Goose pecked, drowned or throttled,

A skin of white fur

       is torn for carrion;

Ants work.

Sun smiles.


Cleo was my favourite cat.

One week she went missing. She was around seven or eight at the time - and in her most killing phase.

Cleo died at the age of 23 years. In cat terms that was a pretty good life.