Tag Archives: animals



Your sister already knew us;
you were unsure, latecomer,
stubborn and at times, we thought, thick.
The world must have been so
strange, so new, so different to you.
Your sister already knew how
to gain our affection and attention;
you were cautious, more reluctant.
Your sister already knew that
she could outrun, outsprint,
outswim, outjump you;
you made up for it in elegance,
presence, and a dignified silence.
Your sister knew what was
going to happen, and left,
taking the elephantine choice;
we got a call three days later.

But you also knew.
You knew what your sister had known,
you shared more than family ties.
You carried on, for years,
until you shook, you trembled, you shivered,
whimpering and flinching at our touch.
Something pressing on your mind,
and you could not tell us.
Your dignified silence now a burden,
the world once again a strange place.
But you knew it was too late,
and you lay your soft, black head
on the operating table, all attention on you,
and slept.

Act One


A cat wanders onto the stage,
pauses, looks at the empty
performer’s spot, light now dormant,
shakes its head, turns round and walks off.

A cat wanders onto the stage,
stops, sits, lifts paw, scratches ear,
licks paw, rubs ear, purrs, content.

A cat wanders onto the stage,
longing for the warmth of people,
the yarn of words being spoken,
a saucer of fresh performance.

A cat wanders onto the stage,
defiantly, fully aware of interrupting.
It looks at you, and it knows.
It knows you also yearn
for the warmth of applause, yours and others
for the scent of words, buzzing and stirring
for the touch of performance, moving and soothing
for the realm that exists behind closed curtains.

The cat looks at you, then exits, stage left.

A single note


It begins with a single note.
A brief scribble on a bit of paper
a rarity in this electronic age.
You can’t read the handwriting
but you don’t care:
the music starts playing.
The note is followed
by others, black on white
stains of ink and sound
on the blank page.
The vast, unknown field
of untrodden words.
But it began with a single note.
A beat of the heart
A tick of the pen
Then the words start flowing
rushing through the snow-field
like blackbirds seeking seeds.
They shuffle among themselves
pecking at the ground
leaving tracks in the soil.
Then, as one, they lift off,
the sound of rushing wings
reminds you of the strings
that followed that single note.
But one stays behind
one single blackbird.
A full stop on the page
a comma in the field,
it pauses the track,
looking for that last germ
of something great, buried
deep beneath the leaves.
You leave it pecking
as you move away from the page;
the characters, the lines
left to their own lives.
And the music ends as it begins:
with a single note.

(Published on Poetry&Audience, summer 2011, vol. 46 n.1)