Before I Write

October and craneflies squat in sinks
trail frail shadows on blank walls.

Three speculative Robins outside
and not one fighting. Songs of birds

left for Africa still sung by birds
that remain. Mid-afternoon is what

being old must feel. Wall-trained,
and withstanding frost, stands a hardy fruit

named ‘Amber Reach’. I should be
Edith Sitwell, grotesque yet unashamed.

My illness is bad choices, lariats of starlings.
I need big predators back to add

edge and spice. Dinasaurs, to eat me.
I do not write how I feel:

‘One chimpanzee is no chimpanzee’.
That I write at all is the consolation.

Each envelope a slit of air, I yield,
I succumb to the stack’s papery exhalation.

I write but not of him or I at all,
frail letters stick to paper like swat flies:

‘Such lucky birds, such company,
not fazed by this influx of unseasonal snow’.


April is winter, weighted with new brightness,
reaching through branches to hidden empties,
the frozen yard, its blue flowers under rusty trees
and shit up to the door. Hunger is our problem,

haylage was a price and now we rent
fields of winter beet. The frosted lambs get up
from sleep-melted circles; one squeak from the gate
and they pour off the hills. Farming is about waking up

one thing and not another, yet it all grows at once:
lambs with rotten cloves; brassicas with moths.
Oil on the shed floor. Blood from a cracked face—
the Off Licence miles off. Last night thaws:

I had tacked the chainharrow to the Landrover,
spun around the fields, music banged as lambs
foamed in the hedgerows. However neglected, they all come
looking, I mean I, we, they, all come to look the same.

Little Wolf

Hop I wildly planted: leaves
smaller and simpler towards the tip –
apple-flesh cone of tiny claws,

curious punctuation. Hedgerow bine:
I drank the seed pressed and pounded
to humulus-state; my garlanded pub

refreshed. Lupulus: little wolf;
mock-hunting, one pup takes down
another. Pale willow-wolf, field-shadow.

First blood of autumn is hawthorn;
and though I hunt other prey, I too am
wolf: living by violence and by nature violent.

© All text and images belong to Sean Swallow. All work is protected by copyright.