Two hedgehogs

Sonnet:

We saw two hedgehogs.



We saw two hedgehogs feeding side by side
And it wouldn’t be our fault if they died.

They had been grunting through the summer night.
Safe from traffic – we thought they’d be all right –
In an island garden bordered by woods.
Each evening we offered them special food
In a plastic box wasted and surplus.
They went straight there the first night with no fuss.
Though far too nervous to come out in light:
This their entrench’d anthropogenic plight.
Now mangling their nightly excursions are
(New dreads but) most of all the motor car.

And remember bonfires roast them alive,
As one did a guy on November Five.

North Devon, 12 October 2018

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Brute tractor

A monster was coming on at me,
Devouring the world, all I could see,
Such was its all-consuming presence,
That nothing else composed an absence.
Crashing there, pulverising closer.
A beast advanced over the border.

*

Now, sounds of the English countryside,
Herald a fresh hell of herbicide.
An incessant whine of brute machine
Counterpoising the crack, crunch and scream
Of advancing chains flailing hedges,
Even trees and all the quiet edges.

Fields once in early autumn slumber,
Bough and branch in myriad number,
Are beaten into low submission.
Heavy-handed ironbound precision
Bullies countryside’s casual borders
Into tame and abased neat order.

Now reducing full forage hedgerows,
In all their blowsy carefree billows,
Into managed new factory walls;
As close as the jackboot tractor crawls.
Those linear woods, trashed in thoughtless
Haste, make a sad wake in wakes of mess.

These linear woods are all that’s left
Of a landscape that is now bereft
Of the deciduous eternal
Hanging woods which once clothed the feral
Land from east to west, from south to north.
A greenwood cover of endless growth.

Now, ev’ry year hedges try anew,
To regrow once more and save a few.
Hawthorns! Their remembered sweet fragrance
In blossom clouds of creamy cadence,
But there they are, hacked back more and more
Till all that’s left is jagged and raw.

They won’t be laid traditionally.
Every advance drives more fiercely
Into older and thicker timber,
Till the gross impact upon your ear
Is in due accord with the ravaged
Scene: wood and nerves together shred.

Now, never mind the long standing tree.
And farmers won’t see the bird or bee.
For what cannot be seen counts as nought.
Subtle lessons like these can’t be taught
To those immured within tractor walls,
Or logged into cool persuasive malls.

Then his tea, in towered splendour, he sips.
And with insouciant fingertips
Nudges on hundreds of horsepower might.
Never giving one thought to the sight
Of tangled despoilment left behind
After the flailing chains’ savage grind.

Now, with protection wrapped round his face,
Headphones musicking a deaf embrace,
To insulate the remote cabbed man
From all consequences of his plan.
So deafness mutates this crashing hell.
With never a witness left to tell.

Aye, the crashing sound above all else
Has no regard of pastoral sense.
It surely would dumbfound old hedgers
Thankfully safe now in quiet slumbers.
Would they swap craft’s old occupation
For this new gross manifestation?

Now, a poet wand’ring in Nature
Seeks his peace in this secret treasure;
For wind and song are quintessential;
Listen! And be mute deferential.
For there is peace and sweet harmony
In measuring life’s geometry.

Still the brute tractor masticates on.
Jaws chewing; weight thrown about; and strong
Enough to pulverise any foe.
What hope can there be of tomorrow?
Yet wait! The pregnant buds still prepare
To try yet again another year.

Now the ogre leaves the margin’d stage
(And a poet impotent in rage!),
The hedging tree will lick its spirit.
And the only good to come of it,
If calm reflection matters a toss,
Is to help us value what we’ve lost.

(c) Richard Meyer,
Winswell Water, N. Devon, October 2018

Epitaph for the Badger

It’s not new for me! This was published in 1971 in The Lady
(written under the name I used then for Natural History books)

Slide 17

Epitaph for the Badger

A snarling dark shape in the depths of night,
Blundered into whilst on unknowing paths,
Reduces careless ignorance to fright.
And in others may produce mirthless laughs;

For sure, there are few to be had today,
Farmers and ministers have seen to that.
While hunts sabs and patrols, try as they may,
Cannot hope to mangle every cruel trap.

What it is to be feared, yet have no voice:
Found guilty by the company we keep.
It could never have been a badger’s choice
To mix with cows or dung or corn or sheep.

And then a microscopic deadly bug,
Named long ago after some wretched cow,
Untold thousands of needless graves are dug.
Continues the killing from then till now.

*

As the badger noses his woodland track,
And cubs dance among the bluebells in play,
A mercenary with gun on his back
Approaches – sights set on a hapless prey.

Despite frenzied digging, claws long and torn,
There is no escape from the senseless cage.
So the badger lapses, senseless, forlorn,
And awaits the man blind with misplaced rage.

The end comes quick enough, in drifts of mud.
Proclaiming man’s absurd insanity.
An inhuman prison, base mired in blood.
No earthly help to cure bovine TB.

Across all the land, thousands of cattle,
Who – for all their history – stamp and fret
With no thought of misdirected battle.
Leave trails of death we will never forget.

*

And the cows! They go from a stinking byre,
Through crush and syringe to Positive test.
And end their days on a funeral pyre.
Can there be anyone left not depressed?

I’ve been lost and bereft for forty years,
By abrogation of a science law.
And have seen around me good fellows’ tears.
Nonplussed, unbelieving, in fraught furore.

Cool appraisal of the science shows,
However black and white (and neat) it feels,
The badger’s not the enemy they know;
It’s cows which spread the bug from field to fields.

Yet on and on it goes, running amok.
How or when it will end, no-one can say.
But when they’ve killed the last remaining Brock,
They’ll find another neat scapegoated prey.

*

And as though all this wasn’t bad enough,
There, see the man touting pistol or gun,
Who thinks it’s a mark of being ‘dead tough’:
Sporting a quarry shot simply for fun.

Official massacre carries no hope.
A steam-hammer abused will crack no nut;
Blunderbusses trained through a microscope
Can’t stem a bacterial tide like Cnut.

A host called ‘spill-over’ is Brock’s death-knell
Caught up in the saga of bTB,
Looks on from woodland setts where it would dwell:
A hapless bystander in history.

Politicians – government ministers –
Self-imagery of their poor selves made,
Think mainly in terms of ballot papers.
And wildlife can make no Jarrow Crusade.

*

‘Here today, gone tomorrow’, it’s been said,
Civil servants can blithely walk away.
Leaving behind their bloodied trails of dead
Which had no English voice and held no sway.

When they’ve murdered all that the state decrees,
Don’t think it all over, dusted and done.
On moor, or under wooded canopies,
The thugs will still be there with dog and gun.

Sharing between them one medieval
Mindset lacking all imagination.
Corrupted by peer and older evil
Bloodlust thirsting for extermination.

And while one arm of the law tries its best
To save from louts a protected icon,
Another in power and much better dressed,
Finds ways of letting the killing go on.

he law tries its best
To save from louts a protected icon,
Another in power and much better dressed,
Finds ways of letting the killing go on.