As to goodbye, not much
to be said for it.
Ken Smith, Fox Running
She follows disappointing scents
from dusk to dusk,
liver and tan,
circling the city’s rim,
someone driving past their own
house, afraid to go in.
She catches her death
on the evening wind that scuffs
the tops of trees, lifts up the bins
and gives slow chase: death
on the billboard model with her beautiful
cargo of limbs,
death in the man who rides
the 26 to Hackney Wick, out
from the depot, back again,
death in the dark strip
of the old canal that underlines
her route downtown,
death in the folds of city boys
in tailored suits who hold
their matching pints, death
sheltering in shop doorways
or walking home in shirtsleeves
with his coat off,
death asking for small change
and death giving it out, pockets
always deep enough.
Death following the stockmarket.
Death locking the door
in its boutique hotel.
She sniffs it out, again, again
and can’t think what
to do with it and carries on,
catching an interfering scent,
and loping down the thoroughfares,
the Thames an interruption
in the night, her trail leading across
the bridge that shook and never
fell. Nobody blocks her way.
Nobody tries to leash her to their side.
Nobody handles her.
You’ve seen her with her heavy stride,
her sagging chin, the dumbbells
of her paws.
She’s middle-aged, invisible.
She isn’t known to raise her voice, her yap
kept buried in her wrinkled chest,
her flesh shortlived. O but they’d say
her bones are artefacts, shaped
over centuries, outlasting rot
and though she is too old to bleed,
her scent’s so keen she smells
each drop before it forms, before
it falls, smells it on the teenage girl
who rides the Hammersmith and City,
her legs crossed tight,
smells it on the boy
who walks through Shoreditch
cauterised, his hand against his chest.
She goes unnoticed, down
through Crooked Usage, Long Acre,
Accommodation Lane. She runs
nose to the ground, dislodging chicken bones,
the damp, unwanted pages of old news.
She follows notes of piss and whisky
till they peter out, rare places
where the street’s washed clean again,
gutters where the trail runs underground.
You run with the hare
and you hunt with the hounds.
That was always her trouble, always
what troubled her,
her kind set loose to bring back slaves
some other century, or chase a fox
to stillness in the woods.
And part of her escaping
with the uncaught prey, part of her
loosed, part of her
run to ground. You hunt with the hare
and you run with the hounds.
She’s fickle and sincere.
She has outlived her use,
but sharpens at a whiff of fear,
your dread, her dread, his dread,
ours. She’s the bailiff calling
out of hours, in black now, lovely,
raising herself to her full height,
listing everything you owe. You lie dead
still and listen for her in the night.
Knock knock. Who’s there?
It’s Nothing. Nothing who?
Knock knock. It’s Nothing. You.