At Orrest Head, above the lake
my body tips the year’s scales.
September, don’t be reckless:
I’m a child on a park see-saw
with no-one on the other side.
Canada geese. Light tangling
in tree roots, ferns and lichen
and the naming of parts:
Red Screes, Cold Pike, Swirl How,
High Raise, Steel Fell, Ullscarf.
Cold plucks at my scalp,
a kind of lovesickness.
For two weeks each year
the ground smells sharper
and anything might happen
in the cool palm of the woods
and I dream the same stranger
each night, cupping her breasts
in my hands, holding the autumn
of her hair and by morning,
we’ve danced back to our lives,
pretending the distance
means we’re no longer
touching. Here, the road
runs steady below the copse
and though this is barely a hill
if I stand motionless
I can see everything coming,
slate clouds, starlight, storm.
In the living room, my stepson
is trying to Liberate The University.
In the kitchen, I try to liberate
my left leg from the clutch
of his jam-faced brother. The air
is pungent with garlic, rosemary,
roast lamb for five. Outside,
a bailiff thrush hammers the wall
animated by the work of bludgeoning
a snail from its thick, tabby shell.
These are the means of production.
My stepson produces ideas.
His father produces a calm environment
for staff. I produce date flapjack.
The baby produces gleeful burps.
In the laundry basket, a burnished
cravat belonging to my stepson.
The patterns fold around each other,
red and dull gold. I hold it
between thumb and forefinger
like an ancient, unreadable scroll,
a message of solemn importance.
The label says hand wash gently,
drip dry, do not twist. Surely he
does not intend this task for me.
It must have landed there by accident
falling, leaf-soft while he shrugged
off his white linen shirt.
Tonight, I am ursus arctos horriblis
with a dished face and soft round ears.
My shoulders are humped with muscle.
My fur is tipped blonde-grey, as if
I brushed the sun, survived, kept its trace.
I am always naked, clothed only
in my own warmth. Do not speak to me
as I lope from house to house.
I’m solitary except with my cub
and when he sleeps, I only feel
the torque of my hunger, longing
to gorge on moose and bighorn sheep
musk ox and mushrooms, sedge grass,
tubers, white bark, bison, lemmings
and cutworm moths. I want to walk
into the dead centre of a wet meadow
in the hours after a glacier slide
and take my fill, lapping
the ground’s sweet afterbirth.
I’ll eat bees if I have to, bite into
the neck of a black bear calf.
What have you left for me, here
in my new, shy territory?
Cardboard, tampons, Guinness cans.
Cotton wool, chicken bones,
grape stalks, blood. I walk towards
the overpass, watch cars swarm north
and I could be crouching at the base
of a waterfall: thunder and spray,
the salmon leaping for their lives,
their bodies glittering headlights
and me with my outstretched paws
and open mouth, ready