Thin red hide, flea-ridden, caked
in mud and cack, thorn-snagged
he limps at dawn through bare-backed
woods, neck ricked and panic rising.
Tongue is purple, marked with plum
and elder, no, his mouth is brackish,
stained with bird blood. At odds
with the wild, this double-double spy
has tried to feign a genome mapped
to brushwood, amber, carrion.
He lives in terror of the true dogs
tearing him to pieces in defence
of mate or prey, to win his ground.
Vixen screams (in season now) beleaguer
his weak heart and I, sole witness, see
him rear up as a man, unlock a house
where he will stretch out in a warm
white bed and cast his rust coat
like an old rug on the floor.
He cannot help but hear the dog fox
after him with dry staccato barks,
rattling through skeletons of trees.
Poetry London No 60 (Summer 2008)