Two Poems

John Burnside

St Hubert and the Deer

He has come to a halt in the woods:
snow on the path
               and everything gone to ground
in its silken lair;

gone to ground
             or folded in a death
so quiet, he can almost taste the fade
of hair and vein,

the flesh gone into light
and water
         part-song
                  lost in all this glister.

Nothing is less attractive than the heart,
but we have to admire its utter disdain
for comfort.

Nothing is so relentless or intact
and death is its only precision;
                         at the last
a voice will form beyond the empty trees

and something will glimmer away
                            to the far edge of vision,
the deer, perhaps:

                the deer
                       but not the prey
he sought for years
                 and cannot bear to master.

Uley Blue

I found a badger
struck down in the road,

as if by some
misgiving.

Tatters of blue
in the face, though not

the blue of woad
or of that stream

in Gloucestershire,
where young girls would

have put away their work
to watch the huntsmen

pass,
blue as the sky.

From some old
courtesy, I

dragged the body up
onto the verge,

then stood a while
as if to see it

blunder away
to the cloud-blue

of oat grass
and brambles,

but something in it,
stubborn as a wave,

refused that resurrection
while the rain

came slow and steady,
ink spots in the dust

and something like a hand
smoothing the fur

from blue, to grey,
and then to black and white.