New Poem : The Pale Fox (Rough First Draft)

The Pale Fox

Spring is here, her cloak swollen wet

with the last of Winter’s melt.

 

The sun has yet to unfurl his backbone,

but my father is already out, climbing

the big hill towards the woods.

 

I can see his lips moving. He curses the sky,

and her many tongues of drizzle.

 

It was yesterday the news came,

of a pale fox, fur and eyes

white as elderflowers.

 

I watch him through my bedroom window,

gun slung across his back.

 

He is in the woods for hours,

and comes back as dusk is settling the sun in her lap.

 

The pale fox is over his shoulder.

I can see her eyes from a quarter of a mile away.

 

I imagine how she would have been

as my father approached the den,

and she could smell his sour scent emerge

through the undergrowth.

 

Her entire body would have been pointed,

pointed like an arrow, like a spear, like a sword.

 

You should’t have taken it, my mother says,

mashing tea. The wood’s won’t like it.

You should have let her be.

 

He ignores her. He always ignores her.

 

But my mother grew up with one foot in the furrows,

one foot in the forest. She knows the land,

she has tasted the roots of its mysteries.

 

There is much boasting as mother cleans father’s bait box,

pours the tea, folds the kitchen cloths into neat squares

with her eyes closed.

 

I follow the sharp tang of death back to a silent den.

I find them, the cubs, pale as their mother, clutched

together in a knot of white fur, tiny teeth and dry blood.

 

Maggots are already crawling in their eyes.

 

I wonder where the father is.

Is he running back over the hills to home,

a pheasant between his teeth?

 

I gently move the cubs away from the entrance,

they are still slightly soft.

 

I fill the den in with soil,

locking them deep inside with the dark.

 

What had they seen already of the world?

I wonder if the father will dig them out.

I wonder if he will scream tonight.

 

My father has the pale fox taxidermied

before the weekend is over.

 

He stands her in the hallway.

 

Her eyes have been preserved in formaldehyde

and has them on the mantelpiece.

 

My father and his friends drink whisky

from stout crystal glasses.

 

My Mother dips candles and dries lavender.

 

They stoke the fox’s back, call her ‘the foolish white bitch.’

 

Father talks of  how he strangled her so as

not to stain her coat. I imagine how she lifted

her lips back over her teeth until her last brave breath.

 

Father tells his friends that in Finland, the aurora borealis

is known as revontulet – fox fires – because

it was believed foxes painted the skies

with their tails.

 

He tells his friends that the Celts

honoured the fox for its wisdom.

 

I told him of these things.

 

They laugh, holding their guts, tears swarming

down fat cheeks. They talk about the forthcoming hunt,

for the copper brothers and sisters of the pale fox.

 

The fever starts unexpectedly,

and father goes to bed for days.

 

She was in here, with her cubs,

 at the bottom of the bed, she was there

and they were all screaming, they were all screaming!

 

He talks of nothing but the visiting foxes.

 

The pale fox and her cubs come every day until

my father is messing himself, hiding under his covers,

making upon the bed a quivering mountain.

 

The smell of shit takes over the whole house.

 

The fox’s body still stands in the hallway,

proud, pale, a formidable woodland queen.

 

I bury her one night, just inside the woods.

I wish for her peace over my father’s.

 

As father dies, he makes one hideous noise

after another, until fading into silence,

a silence unlike any I have ever known.

 

The swollen green jewels of his eyes turn milky,

and pale fox cubs chase their tails around his bed

while the mother sits atop his chest and cleans herself.

 

This poem was inspired by a sculpture by Christy Langer.

Christy Langer 1.jpg

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