Wednesday, 13 February 2019

the cartography of deer

This snow has let the deer redraw the map.
Now waymarked paths lie buried in the drifts,
and hoofprints thread the beechwoods to the rifts
of new-scraped valleys where they sought the sleeping sap. 
The lichen and the moss, the leaves of the discarded year,
those olive greens and russets of the old
are scattered on the snow. It's cold.
The nuthatch's bleak note is all I hear. 
But downhill, where the stream is whispering unseen,
I find the snowdrops; lanterns raised against the snow
on arms that seem so slender, but have grown
with all the force of spring's first instinct to be green.        
And sudden from the ivy there, the wren's song is a flood
of notes that sound the reveille down through the sleeping woods.

Last week's snow was good old-fashioned snow; it lay deep, and didn't stick around to overstay its welcome. I remembered a walk on Great Doward, overlooking the Wye, on Christmas Day a few years ago, when mine were the only human footprints in the snow, and the first line of this poem suggested itself. So finally it's got some more lines to go with it.

The snowdrops are abundant right now, along with crocuses. Nights are still chilly, though, with frost on the ropes in the mornings. On really cold mornings, the birdsong is subdued, and the nuthatches are indeed about all you'll hear. On warmer mornings, the song thrushes start larging it, and I heard an early morning blackbird in Bristol a few days ago, a fine sound  full of spring.

Shepton Mallett, by the way, have a Snowdrop Festival this coming weekend. They're big on snowdrops in Shepton Mallett. They also have a lovely Portuguese cafe. Or at least they did when I was last there a few years back.


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