Stranger Fruit

Poem: The Stoat

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The Stoat

Walking in the warmest afternoon
this year has yielded yet, through slopes of whin
that made the shadows luminous, and filled
the slow air with its fragrance, we went down
a narrow track, stone-littered, under trees
which with new leaf and opening bud contrived
to offer a green commentary on light;
and as we wondered silent, stone by stone,
on lavish spring, a sudden volley broke,
a squealing terror ripped through twig and briar,
as a small rabbit pawing at the air
and stilting quickly thrust full into view,
clenched on its rump a dark-eyed stoat was viced,
shaped in its naked purpose to destroy.
We stopped. I stepped across. Before a stick
could fall in mercy, its harsh grip released,
the crouching stoat vanished, and the rabbit ran
whimpering and yelping into the thick grass.
Something had happened to the afternoon;
the neighbourly benevolence of spring
was shattered with that cast of violence;
and as we turned to follow the steep track,
it seemed no inconsistent codicil,
that in the mud a broken shell should loll
in equal speckled parts, and on a stone,
a little yolk, a golden sixpence, lay,
a fallen sun in a wrecked universe.

John Hewitt