Swamp Stoat

[This is an experimental, 100-lines-so-far beginning of something: fantasy? mythology? ecology? fable? animal story?]

Squirrels of mercy, vagrant eagles,
and a swamp god’s left-out stoat
share a moment of communion
drawing straws for Joseph’s coat.

Vibrant, bleach-proof lurid colours
draw the vagrant eagles’ gaze.
This allows the swamp god’s stoat to
steal a march and lease a maze

that it bids the squirrels to enter.
Oozing mercy they comply.
Up start eagles. Down-filled fissures
in the mazes’ duckboards try

to mislead the squirrels of mercy
delving deeper in the maze
of amazing grates of hearsay
and of other dubious ways.

Snapping from their hue-dazed centre
the eagles charge into the sky.
Gyring higher, their wings flail
the frozen paths where jet planes fly.

Soaring raptors riding updrafts,
flaring feathers of their tails
shred off fragments of the contrails
lucid diamonds in the sky.

Up start eagles. Down-filled fissures
in the duckboards of the maze
whisper clues devoid of meaning
to the squirrels whose feats amaze

the fishes, sloths and teddies sluicing
on the maze’s Escher side,
in dimensions no deducing
can make real. Illusions glide

up the nostrils of the lost.
They begin hallucinating
that the no-name goat is host
to a mage elucidating

why and how the ways though many
keep reducing when they’re measured
till what’s left is less than any
chance for exit though that’s treasured.

Greedy eagles flail at contrails,
lucid diamonds in the sky.
Peering down they plot the faint trails
through the veiled maze as squirrels try

to elicit Lucy’s meaning
if there was one. Failing there
the squirrels seek exits from the leaning
maze wall of the swamp stoat’s lair.

The swamp stoat, laird of maze and hirer
of successes to the needy,
cannot tolerate the slyer
vagrant eagles turning greedy.

Greedy eagles savour stoat stew.
That’s a fact the swamp stoat heard
often, when small, from his mother.
Grown up, he’d thought that absurd.

But, he thinks, since they are vagrant,
forever gyring with no home,
will these raptors find him fragrant?
Frightening vicious spectres roam

in what stoats presume is thinking.
the stoat enters the maze himself.
Through the maze mist he sees blinking
mercy candles on a shelf,

and vicious fishes, and torn teddies
from an office Christmas fete,
and a sloth that’s never ready.
These are the things that congregate

in the centre where the maze is
often entered, seldom left.
That’s to say, the part where daisies
grow amok and green, bereft

first of mercy, then direction.
Fishes, teddies, and sloth tarry
there awaiting benediction
or some happy chance to marry

up with guiding lights who’ll lead them
to the maze’s outer edge,
failing that, to guides who’ll feed them
during their stumbling through the hedge

that surrounds the maze’s centre.
The hedge blocks progress, makes them lame.
Then they meet the stoat’s dissenter:
it’s the goat without a name.

How to hail this holy goat?
She’s a ewe, perhaps a granny.
Trying for a cheery note,
the sloth stage-whispers, slowly, ‘Nanny’.

[I need to add more here, the goat being a false ‘prophet, profit’.]

Chinless, pretty like a sea lion
although fishes beg to differ
approaches from the maze’s tree line
the esteemed solution giver.

Neither mercy squirrel nor eagle
nor a sloth nor stoat nor even
Spot, the first grade’s favourite beagle,
it’s the orca Splendid Steven.

Steven steals a march and razes
the maze walls. The creatures roam
free of where the sly stoat hazes.
Even the eagles find a home.


The man helped, carried, the
old terrier
down the two steps
and put him down
on the carpet
of the poetry and philosophy
where he fell over
and lay on his side,
the old terrier

I became hysterical
but the attendants,
concentrating on noticing
changes in demeanour,
did not remark this

and left me reading
in books of foreign poems
about everyday things
rendered mysterious
by being noted down
and he, the man, set
the old terrier up

March Sunday

This garden hedge can stare me down with ease.
It has more eyes, perhaps a million more
from thrush to spider and on down to spore.
They gaze at me relentlessly and seize
the thoughts that I would concentrate on you.
Each takes a bit and laughs at it until
the birds fly off and spring’s first wasps go still.
I’d write an ode but find I’m laughing too.


Here’s this Death’s-head Hawkmoth travelling solo,
high up, slowly. Banking on solar-guided
day flights, tracking lunar beams through the dark in
honeycombed flight dreams.

Up from Egypt, confident to her wingtips,
desert sunsets lighting her port side. Nights flown
on the same course. Gauging the safest glide paths,
dreaming the touchdown.

Fog-bound days logged over the slate-grey sea chop,
sturdy thorax beating down square-rigged breast strokes
till Swiss cantons stand in for whitecaps. Cruises,
pressing up wing loads.

Light rain welcomes flight’s closing leg to refuge:
vespers’ vistas. Death’s-head knows honey beckons:
bulging golden beehives awaiting her drop-in.
Drills down to get some.

Two months’ perfect homing is paid in sugar.
Sweet with fuel needed for last feat: laying
eggs in garden plants’ shade. Each egg grows its own
honeycombed flight dreams.