Red and Grey
In the beginning, nature was red
in tooth and claw; life-force fed
on blood and gore.
We all know the tale that was read
to us by our parents; the deadly
battle of the Reds and the Greys.
Channelled from hearsay to history;
how the vibrant, vital Reds,
in the shirts of United,
succumbed to the wiles, the grim,
gruesome guiles, of the Greys.
Outwitted, outplayed, by the over-priced
mercenaries; betrayed, by the dubious
mechanisms of free-market capitalism,
outmanned in midfield, overrun
by sheer work rate, the scintillating
surges, the spontaneous urges
of the Reds were stifled, slaughtered,
by the prosaic purges of the Greys.
Every so often, a rumour is spread
of the long-awaited return of the Reds.
They will regain their kingdom,
or so we are told, like the all-conquering
mythical heroes of old.
Misinformation, I suspect;
we are being misled. Or items
of news that we have misread.
For when I search, in woods, or parks;
striding in sunlight, stumbling in the dark,
in evening twilight, or brightness of day,
I see no Reds; all the squirrels are Grey.
I was recently reading “On Balance”, a highly-acclaimed collection of poems by Sinead Morrissey. I was reading it in the bath, as usual, in the relaxed state of mind that often seems to generate ideas for poems, and this proved to be the case again. Some of the main themes of “On Balance” are economic and ecological instability, gender inequality and our inharmonious relationship with the natural world. I found myself reading a series of poems in which colours featured strongly (one was called “Colour Photographs of Tsarist Russia”), followed by several poems featuring wild animals. In my relaxed state of consciousness, I probably started mixing these ideas together, and, the next thing I knew, I had the basic idea for “Red and Grey” – so, many thanks to Sinead!