Published by BBC 1994 'Poet of the Year'
Illustration for BBC Wildlife
Broadcast in Poetry Please May 1994
|The Beast of Bodmin Moor
Something is spooking the walkers, killing sheep.
Ewes flicked like cotton wool balls, left sliced, rippered.
No-one has truly seen it, given it shape.
A libratory shift, swift at the edge of sight,
it haunts those grey passages, deeper than sleep,
turns rumours into newspaper features, fact-peppered
with jaw comparisons, claw depth and power of bite
that brand it cat. Cruel, bandit cat, a beast;
yet cat enough for moor-grizzled farmers to will it,
summon it, not vengeful in the least, live and whole
for tabloid men with hungry lenses.
Dogs, shot without a thought for such betrayal of trust,
lack the imagination for such blood lust
that touches these deep senses, our animal soul.
I might have imagined something else out there alive
besides the taffeta rustle of the moon drenched orchard,
yet this bright, hard place pressed into unlidded meadows
between the granite-humped moor and the slate edged sea,
has been winter quarters for some gentle huntress. Unseen,
her presence announced in the shamanic arrangements of her leavings:
little heaps of ivory, horribly clean, piled neatly in the old pig pen.
Such cold facts, small lives born to be snacks, a skull to each corner.
She needs people near, perhaps, witnesses now and then.
Her appearance now is a curtain call. Dappled, creamy in the black,
size of a labrador, ears tufted. Beautiful Death come in spotted robe.
I stare, and haloed eyes, waxing full, stare indolently back,
then slowly, with heavy patience, close in a wink, heartbeats long.
A cat kiss draws me in complicity, mutual forgiveness.
My eyes open to the empty orchard.
To a smile left leaving.
|© Jeremy Rogers 1993, 1994, 2009, 2010|