Mid-afternoon and I enact a policy, the elementary
one against ambiguity. So, in this park, it’s simple
beasts at first: a squirrel is a sculpted pigling, nut
in mouth; a cinnamon-headed fly romps on a
slab; a blackbird scraiks in the hedgerow, delving
reddest berries, ones which tease from me the giddy
painters’ words for scarlets; a toadstool, stillest of
brutes, stirs uncautious concepts – the prettier of
two sisters, or the prettily filmy phases of a bruise
(tact is not yet ambiguity). Then, wild coriander (the
local word a cheekful of hornets), a violet lozenge
of a butterfly, and another an inch off lemon. And
at last, what was missing from your bestiary: a grey-
bellied rodent flossing the old teeth of a dry wall;
new lovers who laugh at they don’t know what;
some cousin of the waxwing which halves the space
between maple and beech, heads to where policy
and concept meld or melt, to the self’s sluice, where
it settles to drink.
Roddy Lumsden’s most recent collections are Terrific Melancholy (Bloodaxe) and The Bells of Hope (Penned in the Margins). He is Poetry Editor for Salt and Series Editor of the Best British Poetry. He lives in London.
Poem previously featured in Edinburgh Review 137 – Haggis Hunting: fifty years of new playwrighting in Scotland.