By Caroline Cripps
Walking the Dog and Everything Else
Warned, we bought a sack of potatoes,
lots of lentils, haircuts, completed time sheets.
It was Lent, with fasting, prayer,
online reflection on the plagues of Egypt,
Easter sunrise and finally roast lamb.
We each took the dog for separate exercise –
There were sunny days, every week.
Hot days, many weeks.
Spring, like you’ve never had time to notice:
yellow daffodils, jasmine hanging on walls,
plum blossom white, horse chestnut, magnolia,
tulips all the colours of flames.
And birdsong; thrushes and blue tits
nesting outside my kitchen.
Then allowed to walk together –
at the city’s edge heard cuckoo, peewit,
on the moors, curlew and grouse.
The green of grass crept higher each week.
Sometimes we walked in bluebells,
brilliant beech, dark holly woods.
Away from parks full of people,
closed cafes, which suited the dog
who’s afraid of dog crowds.
I’ve cleared out the loft; chucked letters
from names I don’t recognise and those
I still see, kept only the remembered past.
I fall asleep dreaming of visiting cousins
meeting school friends or cycling to the coast.
Daily, we watch the news:
graphs of tens of thousands of deaths
of vulnerable people. Will I be one?
Patterns on the Page
Can you see a pattern in the frost?
cracks like stars in icy puddles
as the temperature goes down,
tyre tracks entwined along the road,
yellow spears of willow, lobes of oak,
leaves outlined in white against the brown.
Can you see a pattern in the cards?
There is no pattern on the table,
only red on black and black on red
just the time spent playing
when there’s no-one else to play with,
and no paid work to do instead.
Can you see a pattern in the numbers?
As the temperature goes down again,
an exponential rise in sickness against age
and we pass from spring to autumn
up the far side of the valley of deaths;
the grim graph makes a pattern on the page.
In the night, woken by silence,
she peers through the curtains.
Moonshadow slashes the garden in half.
Paw prints dark in the snowlit side
disappear behind an apple tree in shade.
On top of the cherry tree a solitary solid
moves its head and two bright eyes
catch the moonlight. The owl looks at her.
She looks at the owl.
Beyond, the city is hidden in fog.
Streetlights have vanished. No sign
of human life. Each, every, all alone.
Soundlessly, suddenly, the owl swoops,
lands and rises, grasped in its claws
a rat, that wriggles, drops in the snow.
A scene from a medieval tapestry:
owl returns to its prey; fox, from the hedge,
pounces. Feathers scatter. Distracted,
fox grabs the rat, shakes it, trots away.
Owl is long gone, to another garden.
Just one more death, in the night.
A mile away, looming in the mist,
in the hospital, are many more.
Perhaps tomorrow will be a good day?
She might create a snowman.
I live in Sheffield, UK, with my husband and whippet. I am semi-retired after a career in education and research and have been writing poetry for about 35 years. During the pandemic I have struggled to write about anything else