The Thought Fox by Hughes
I wrote this poem last winter. I was asked to read at The Troubadour one animal poem no more than 25 lines and there was a week to go and I still did not have a poem. So I thought I'd read Hughes poem about the thought fox.
I was driving back late from somewhere and I put the radio on and suddenly there it was, Hughes larger than life reading the poem. And I knew I could not read it.
The next morning we were driving down to Guildford and out of the corner of my eye I saw a dead fox in the gutter of the A3. It was then I knew I had a poem at last.
At the reading, Hugh Epstein and me did a double act, he agreed to read The Thought Fox by way of an introduction to mine that followed straight after.
Ted Hughes's poem first then mine
The Thought Fox
I imagine this midnight moment's forest:
Something else is alive
Besides the clock's loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.
Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:
Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox's nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now
Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come
Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Coming about its own business
Till, with sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The windowis starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.
and my poem
Hearing “The Thought Fox” on the Radio
Midnight. Winter darkness.
I drove home
through lonely silent suburbs.
Frost gathered –
formed a white lining
in the streets.
Then the hard dark grain
of Hughes’s voice
burst into the car
conjuring his midnight fox
so loud I thought he sat beside me
haloed in neon and moonlight –
the creature hidden
in the folds of his coat.
Later, in the road
among fallen leaves and branches -
a dead fox
rolled up like a discarded carpet
slumped in a gutter.
The insistent reach
of Hughes’s voice still
now, as I write.
© David Loffman
11 December 2005