In my previous post “Ted Hughes and my Pigeon”, I mentioned that the pigeon appeared while I was waiting for a bus at Huntingdon Bus Station. The fact is, I spent an inordinate amount of time, during my working life, travelling to and from work by means of public transport. I never got around to learning how to drive, and working at MOD bases hidden away in inaccessible countryside only exacerbated the problem. My poem “Urban Fox” derives from a typical situation when I was getting up at 4.45 a.m. and walking a mile to the nearest bus station for the six o’clock bus. The animal I encountered was more tangible and less mysterious than Ted Hughes’s “Thought-Fox”, but still made quite an impact upon me.
Dankness, darkness, all around.
Orange lights glimmer, scant is the sound.
Sleep-heavy eyes, mouth stiff from yawning.
I walk into town, this workday morning.
Leaves underfoot, turning to sludge.
Rain falling softly, onwards I trudge.
Mind locked in neutral, only dimly aware,
at the side of the pavement, the creature is there.
Walking straight past it, dull, robotic pace.
Only then registering its snout, eyes and face.
Thoughts slowly stirring, mired in a bog.
Something strange about it; this is no dog.
I stop and stare. It is relaxed, at ease.
Familiar with the street, away from fields and trees.
Before this, the only foxes I had ever seen
were glimpsed, at distance, in vistas of green.
In the early-morning silence, we are alone.
Creatures of circumstance, far from home.
Driven by necessity, that omniscient power,
to wander the streets at this unearthly hour.
Our eyes meet briefly, fleeting survey.
Tail swishing jauntily, it goes on its way.
It would have mouths to feed, vital prey to snatch.
I must walk briskly; I have a bus to catch.