the old dance

the fallow field
that runs down to the wood
has fallen to the clearances
including, I’m sorry to say,
one half of the badger sett
that extended from the treeline
to the flag of a lone goat willow
and an armoury of brambles.
(the flag dropped
before the tracks of the digger;
the thorns were out-toothed
by the bucket)

but badgers don’t know
the meaning of defeat
(I think it’s safe to say)
because I suppose nature
has its hard ways, too
and all you can do
is get on and survive
anyway, suffice to say,
they wasted no time
over the next couple of weeks
doing a bit of digging of their own
excavating old runs
opening new ones
reinforcing, extending, clearing
all on the woodland side
and this morning when I went
to see how they were getting on
I found slag piles slung
from a number of holes
scree slopes of sandy soil
deep-found stones, roots, sticks
and in amongst it all
the skull and hip bones of a rabbit
the femur of a badger

I wasn’t shocked
I mean, it’s been a good while since I thought
badgers were grumpy but essentially kind
reading books in high-backed chairs
carrying a candle each night to bed
and I know, intellectually at least,
that when a badger dies
or any of the other animals that share
its extensive chambers
they hold no vigil
around some other hole entirely
heads bowed, paws folded,
incanting from Thessalonians
the mourner’s kaddish
or Ṣalāt al-Janāzah
no. they get busy
with the bustling shuffleP1130078
they’ve known for years without thinking
head down into the darker earth
front paw to back
with a flick and a shuffle and a flick
out with the roots
out with the stones
out with the bones
making good the ways
making good the days
making good the sett

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