Fox Eyes

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August in a sigh of rain.

A million birds in the swarming dawn; meadow pipits and finches like a mist in the grass. I lie half-awake before sunrise and watch birds bathing in the dew like sparklers. Who knows where they came from; and who knows if they’ll see the evening? Because these birds are a currency – food for every hawk and hunting beast in the land. Most of them are destined to become fat, stashed between the meat and skin of something greater. Their memory will live only in the existence of others, so I enjoy them for one day only; the keen, gabbling company of a summer’s crop.

And a fox hunts along the scree in that same morning light. Everything is beneath him now; he sees the shepherd walking; he marks the curling dog. Our chimneys and the sun-dumb windows of this farm are well known to him as he stands shanked and knotty as a summer bear.

Grass moves around him. The stems are as thin and yellow as the eyes in his head. He sits for a time and soaks us in, then shoals of martins come up from the river and scream along the turnip shaws and out to the standing heather. This has been a summer for martins, which infest the clouds like a five o’clock shadow. And it’s been a summer for wildflowers too; for tufted vetch and valerian; for yarrow and clover and wild pheasant chicks which have stood well into August and fly like crowds of quail above the gossamer.

If the fox could find these birds, he’d surely have his say. But instead he sits to itch and I imagine the black, overdrawn lip and the pitch of his fangs as he finds the sweet spot and rakes it with a nail; such tick-bitten bliss in the bracken.

Dry, thready and hard-worn; the year steeps back to dusk again.

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