Land bends beneath the wren.
Yellow and burnt crabs fall from hinges of dark wood,
scuttle with the wind-curve of the heath, under that wing.
A shore somewhere inland. Do you see it?
There, beyond the silt bar, banks guide the perch and graylings.
Swimming the turns and folding earth.
A small roof is an upturned hull lost among tumbling barrows.
Celandines needle the crests of that slumping shoulder.
Crooked beneath the wren.
Made hunched and crouching, by the wren.
A dart. A flutter and loud trill that knocks a hill hollow.
A cave for the fox to wait in during the downpour.
Sighs and singing. Sings the echo somewhere far in.
In the tunnels of the dampening body.
The land twists and tugs at the beak. The worm slips.
Land clicks with the pinches as leaves of the horse chestnut
claw their long distances, tide after tide after tide.
And nobody. Nobody. Nobody is watching.
Your Brother's Hands
Afterwards, as in the room where you take your brother's hands
and bathe them, the curve of the hearth, the green-
oak knots of the mantle, are worn like land
consenting the raised stones of an outcrop.
The face of your brother circles the room, or is it a yellow heath
with white air supporting peregrine? His eyes narrowing
on the rope strung in front of the fire, pendulous -
the swing it makes from room to hillside and always returning.
Before, meaning a place in the forest, pheasant twitching
leaves from a claw. Red-feathered, tree-coloured, rope looping
its neck, is the walk your brother takes below the elm trees,
the meal he offers and the door you close behind him.
Grey water falling over his skin, as in rainfall on a cold summit
bringing the debris of rock and salt, this winter light, until
into a bowl collects the sum of your brothers hands, fire
crackling through the coals and a green distance hanging.
Mouse Catcher in the Hay
Before you were laid down like stones on the field wall,
you used to chase mice. The combine harvester
lopped hay. You crawled after it, collected brown tails
in your basket, tied them to oak-leaf stalks
and afterwards, when I opened your present, after cake
and balloon games, I found a bracelet of mouse-
tails bloody in a nest of hay. The butcher
called you Cat. It was how you pounced
in the fields, he said, coughing up small bones.
I knew you as the farmer's girl. Fists flexing
while the foxes were shot. That last harvest
before blades came through you, cleanly, I suffered
a sickness hotter than I can explain. In the centre
of fever, footsteps came to the passage, white face
in the doorway, eyes the black of baleful. A voice lost
to hissing as you spoke of a low glide across hayfields,
and the mice, mice crying. I recoiled then
into sleep, waking again some hour after midnight.
At the bed, you leaned over me like a tree. From the damp
hollow of your mouth, silver wing-tips stretching
the corners to a smile, you released an owl.
This poem was first published in Poetry London