Driving back from the literature festival
through Otley handsome in black stone
with white revers of painted windows and doors
I follow behind a tin truck
gaping an open vent high up at the back.
Stopped at the lights the gap is filled
with broad snout, a wet black sponge for sucking up
sweetness from deep in summer grass.
You crane your head in the hole sideways to let
each eye in turn roll up at the sky.
Deep in the tumbril shock you don’t speak.
I know where you’re going this summer’s morning
and feel you know it too though how
when no-one has ever come back with tell-tale
smell of blood and fear on staring hide?
I imagine though I can’t see the shrunken dug
flat as a perished rubber glove.
The street is called Wharfedale View. It looks across
to where the moors throw a green quilt
for miles under a high sky. Why can’t I just
draw the steel bolt on the tailgate
and let you run and run up there till you drop?
But the lights change. You turn Left; I go Right
for Leeds and perhaps I’m quite wrong
and you’re just being moved on to new pasture.
Then why can’t I safe home sleep
but see still your face laid along the tailgate
with one moist eye turned up questioning
whether I would have drawn that bolt
if you’d been able to ask me in a tongue
I couldn’t kid myself I misunderstood?
© 1985 Maureen Duffy. From The Extended Circle: An Anthology of Humane Thought by Jon Wynne-Tyson, Open Gate Press, 2008.