Two Poems

Ruth Padel

The Excavation

Travelling ends. Fur’s losing condition. Brittle,
each ginger hair-tip will snap. Rubbed patches appear
on the rump as they squeeze into underground tunnels,
flatten themselves under fences in wet sieve of rain,
scuff through concrete hole four inches square.
Greeting the year with a clear soul, she looks
for a family earth. Her mother, her grandmothers
dug in cement under lock-up, door step, grave; a tower
of Ford Capris in a breakers’ yard. Try

twigshadow brambles, up behind Free Metal
nightclub; in Argyle Walk, this narrow space
over a fourth-floor false ceiling
in the office-block. Flub in through a broken pane
and air-brick to some under-the-kitchen-floor haven
in Brill Place. Go on, sweetheart, look: dry, warmed by
the cladding, the pipes; room for the cubs to play . . .
No way. Fifty days pregnant, three to go, she’s eeling
under a muddy flatpack shed on Coopers Lane.

The Watchers

Under oil-barrels, boxes, nettles – their day
retreat – the cubs, lying up. The vixen has stopped
giving milk. They could be watching herbs, worts, fall
to the knife. Marjoram, wild spinach, chickweed go
to be dried under rafters, stored for infusions
in winter. No – these two, this morning,
are quaffing the scent of a girl. Denim jacket,
trainers, eyebrow stud; all nerves. She slinks to the tow
path by Camley Street bridge, dips her braids

in the jade-green canal, chin upside down
under the scum of the sodden log edge, slicks her hair
for her first job, her first fashion shoot. She thinks
she’s alone. They’re russeting up into amber
and rose. Blue eyes have turned citrus. Brown
ears (little triangles, no longer round) hear her ring-
tune: Dr Zhivago. She runs. Disappears
up the bridge. They don’t make a sound

but the cat-like canine, small alfalfa flame, fisher of worms
and beetles, delicate predator whose fossils dot
Pleiocene strata in plains of North Africa, rain
forests of Indonesia – oldest jungle in the world –
is galloping along the towing path (one falling in,
to be drowned), checking run-holes with new-grown
vibrissae: stiff whiskers round muzzle, under the chin,
down back of forelegs. Slips safe
under wire in Rufford Street, Killick Street, Balfe.