Wildlife in West London

(after Al Alvarez)

Skirmishes, furtive scuffling in the gardens, 

furred burglaries. Unearthly wails of cats on heat.

Behind the house, a strip of railway land

where foxes drag their salvage from the street –

the bramble-sheltered brood… Crows pick up the pieces, 

dropping scraps of bone that suddenly materialize

on balconies, on patios and paths. 

And the London night is full of cries –

not love-cries, no, but need, need.

Although we cannot know their lives

their nocturnal mission has to be: feed or breed, 

or both. Foxes are out on the Heath; they sniff the air like knives

Al’s Hampstead Heath, that was. I watch them

jinking down our street at 2 a.m.,

laser-stares caught in the headlights of a passing car.

How much more graceful, beautiful, they are

than us, on the trail of what will serve… At our bedroom window 

one winter morning, daydreaming for us both

I saw a vixen looking up at me – in hope, perhaps? 

I ran to throw her leftovers, aiming for the undergrowth

where she could sniff them out. She sniffed

and found and scarfed them down, I threw more, she 

looked up again, this time – I told myself – with gratitude.

I rushed to tell you… Midwinter now, barely

one year on from when you left, and last night 

in bed I listened to their barks and screams till dawn. 

Whatever they meant, it was longing I heard, 

unappeasable, beyond words, and my own, I could have sworn.