a cackling of hens
black flickers at my feet—
sleek bright-eyed mink
The animal flattens itself against the ground like a fur snake, motionless, watching me. I turn my head carefully, looking for a weapon, pick up a small rock.
Once, after a visit from one of these creatures, I found a precious pair of black ducks headless in their house. Mink are not a native of British rivers, but, released from captivity by Animal Rights activists, have bred so successfully they are now a deadly predator.
But this one is a baby. It is too scared to move—an easy target. One second stretches to three. That bright eye is fixed on me, the coat so sleek and glossy, so beautiful.
I cannot do it.
As I move it leaps up the wire like a dark flame, and out through larger mesh into the field. The hens are still cowering under the blackthorn. I feel sick. Will it return? It can climb anything, creep under a loose door, through any small gap like a snake. How many are there? A nest of snakes—enough for a coat—each one lethal.
The voice of my education said to me, “O He must be killed”. D.H. Lawrence felt he missed his chance “with one of the lords of life” and was left with “something to expiate; a pettiness”.
So I let it go, and will never forgive myself if I lose my last two ducks. I retreat, and watch. The garden is still and warm. Two lovely roses, Peace and Compassion are in flower for the second time, tomatoes redden, golden squash hang heavy on the vine—Indian Summer—the most peaceful time of the gardening year. For how long? Suddenly the ducks flee the pond in a flurry of iridescent wings and water.
on the sunlit grass
two black ducks change shape
rigid with terror
I shut them up in their house and set the squirrel trap, baited with asardine.
Later, when I shut up the chickens, a huge Hunters’ Moon rises from banks of dark cloud. The trees throw long shadows across the grass and the darkness is alive with nocturnal creatures. I close the hen-house door and remove the ladder, having first looked inside to make sure they are all there—with heads.
I spend a restless night, listening. The moon is too bright.
In the morning the young mink is in the trap.
wild young hunter
caught behind bars
how can I kill you?
I delegate the job.
A week later, on another perfect autumn morning, I let the ducks out onto the pond as usual, watch them chase round the island, plumage flashing purple and emerald in the sun. At lunchtime they are gone—not a sign or sound of struggle, not even a feather. I grieve for them all that day, watching the late sunlight shimmer on the empty pond, blaming myself.
The next morning—Tuesday, September 11th, 2001—another fine day. By lunchtime the world has changed.
poised for that kill
each minute heavier with hate
What is a pair of sitting ducks, here or there, now ?
watching this night sky
one of these September stars