Third prize in the 2020 Wales Poetry Award

The rogue ranges out sweaty, rank,
stepping, explores the ground, this
unfriended zone, from his den, head
first, headlong, eyeing near and far
shrubs bushes bramble oak hazel
briar silver birch grass hummocks
fox run rat hole dark earth spilling
dark course trotting through clumps
of couch first woodland and scrub
then heath, nature reserve, scraped
back to flint, then a grassy sward
newly mown meadow, all raised
above the playing fields, the college
buildings stepping away to the far
streets layered on the sloping denes
the coastal city, the wind turbines
the distant sea and sky the wide
open horizon from east to west and
high on the rising hill rooks sway in
in the tall-masted, beetle-blasted elms.

Part dog-breath, part-man, part-rabbit,
nose 50 cm from the ground tracing
the scent network mid-morning on a
Sunday a kaleidoscope of smelling
this manimal ranges out territorial
wanting to mark the land mark out
this zone of ragged nature from here
to here to here to here this replete
with trees bramble saplings bushes
scraped ground (the butterfly reserve)
level grassy area hedgerow yes
just this thank you it may not seem
much to you but to me and my kind
my kin my family my lifelong friends
this is all that’s left so how dare you
how dare you steal this patch from us.

Night. His slumping lurch is slow
and silent weary head swaying
dull eyes miss nothing every
change sensed and registered
the light in the bedroom window
disappears a curtain pulled back
he prowls this nocturnal sentry
follows the deep fox run on its
dark path through the hummocks
weaving this way then that toward
the earthworks the rough ridges
where the butterflies brilliant blue
in summer daylight flutter pause
winter now his nose leads him on
his nostrils flared he nudges the
empty can of Red Bull the broken
glass the defleshed neck the pack
of Durex the ripped sport sock
coltsfoot thistle rosehips harebell
the distance between desire and
goal the cobwebs the ivy the elm
marked for eradication the water
droplets on the blades of grass
the smell of decaying animal of
decaying vegetation of decaying
belief and faith decaying leaves
what’s left to believe in but earth.

There were two main inspirations for the poem. In 2017 I took part in a multi-disciplinary eco-writing series organised by Kin and Kin'd (Kay Syrad and Clare Whistler) and one of the challenges was to walk barefoot around a local territory and record one's impressions. At the same time I was very involved in a successful campaign to protect a local green space from development. I wrote the poem with research assistance from Wilson, our Golden Retriever.