C Richard Miles

Badger Watching

We kept our appointment but someone had not told them,
The badgers, underground, still sleeping an extended siesta,
As lazy afternoon had drifted, undisturbed, into shadow,
Whilst, round the corner, nightfall tapped its black fingers,
Impatiently, in time’s waiting room. We waited, too, hushed.
Hushed by awed anticipation, Hushed by toil’s tiredness,
Hushed by boyish boredom, as evening’s dull, washed-out greens
Faded, supplanted by subtle, solemn greys of tired twilight,
As August’s exhausted artist preferred a plainer, pastel palette.

We kept our appointment but someone had not told them,
As sunset’s semi-silence sang its lilting, languid lullaby,
Broken only by the plaintive sighs of grass-stuffed sheep,
Fat with contentment, on the distant, darkening hilltops;
Broken only by a cruder chorus from cud-chewing cattle
In the freshness of the field, behind the blackness of the byre,
Bovine breaths steaming through the still, sleepy nightfall
Enveloping us in its thick, muffling carpet of calm restfulness,
Echoing the lushness of grassblades on the dewy meadow floor.

We kept our appointment but someone had not told them,
But, eagerly hopeful, the first small grain of soft starlight
Peeped shyly round the theatre curtain of blue-black sky
But, awed by the awaiting audience, it vanished timidly, till
Encouraged by the cheerful charms of glimmering lamplight
Emanating from sturdy squares of faraway farmhouse windows,
White flock wallpaper on the greying whitewash of the walls,
It strode with surer step onto the stage-set of stark, dark sky
Accompanied by its winking, twinkling cold-white companions.

We kept our appointment and someone had now told them
That the scene was set, following the over-long, ornate overture
And, in accordance with the now-established, cold colour scheme
Of chalky, whispered whites, with dusky, grumbling greys
And matt, strident blacks, the padding, pawing protagonists
Nuzzled nervously out, nosing the night air in snuffling scrutiny,
Across the shifting, shale scree surrounding their scraped-out sett,
Hunting myopically for eyeless earthworms looking for leaves
To drag down to line their own, miniature replicas of the burrow.

We kept our appointment and someone had now told them,
Brock and Brockess, bumbling blindly before us, hesitating
Half-sensing, half-hearing, half-fearing our soundless presence
On the feathery, heathery hillside opposite, then rapidly retreating
But only for an instant, to collect their eager brocklings from below.
Untainted by experience, they emerged, to rumble and tumble,
Black and white bundles of enthusiasm, hurtling head over heels
In zebra-striped zigzags down the dropp to the depths of the dale
Before scuttling into the opaque obscurity of dense undergrowth.

We kept our appointment but someone had now told them,
That, reflecting the whiteness of the lamplit windows silhouetted
In negative against the ghostlike grey shadow of the farmstead,
Whitewash invisible in the gloom, they were as ghosts themselves,
Faint phantoms of white-streaked bristle, gleaming and glinting
As half-mirrored reflections of the silky, streaky starlight above.
So, darkness itself descending, extinguishing the straining eyesight
They faded, into nothingness, dragging all our disappointment away
As they had kept their appointment but someone had now told us, “Go! ”

Submitted: Wednesday, November 12, 2008


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