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.