Ash – Six poems for a borrowed Alsation puppy

1. Early morning walk

First mists of sunrise.
I struggle with the gate into the top field –
you have already surged your puppy mind
through it (having whined and wriggled
round and under)
go headlong for the slope.

Exercising forethought,
I wonder if one of those shapes
on the ridge is a bull.
You saw your first cow
yesterday, cannot be expected to know.

You do not look back
to the vast view of morning,
oak-crowns through the mist,
the gift of morning. You yank me on
beyond fog and forethought.

2. Ball under chair

Ball under chair
stretch a nose
stretch a paw
bark at it
stalk it –
pretend to ignore it
try another toy
seek help.
Much the way I came
to prayer.

3. Asleep

Asleep. A bundle of paws
fat and tawny like those of lions.
Ears twitching faintly,
Ash sleeps the sleep of the young
gathering their strength.
His head is heavy with learning:
a first greenfinch,
smell of our river.

As I watch
stomach and rump begin to shiver,
dreams set in;

pose changes. The head thrust forwards,
paws back, gathered in pairs,
imitating a caveman’s antelope
or a heraldic supporter
asleep at his post.

4. Even earlier walk

At this appalling hour,
light only barely lifting
mist pockets off hedges,
I notice secrets
(wrestling with frozen binder twine):
a fox pursuing his purposes
past a line of statue cattle,
a buzzard, low, incessant,
far mew from his noonday soaring,
scours the rabbit graze.

Not so secretly the same three coal tits
as every morning
start from the same thorn bush;
you point ears at them
as though they had just been created
without your approval.

Three plunging fields later
we straggle back
into the first sun
which studs dewed leaves with brilliancy
and one of us is tired.

5. haiku

Rain. The stinging, blind
soak of it. Rain, the one thing
puppies don’t notice.

6. Memories of Ash

Your bark – three times the weight of you.
The things you chewed.
Your wearisome jealousy, whining
at the least hug we gave each other.
The depths of your puppy-sleep after a good walk.

Most of all one leap
at a stick hurled
twenty feet above you.

It cartwheeled into the wet hillside;
you shoulder-plunged after it
as dogs do. But first you jumped
your whole body following its line of flight
weightless of care or calculation:

joy can be.