Porter Brook

The stream has no respect. It chucks its debris
into unbeavered dams, claims feudal rights 
so visitors must dance across
the stepping stones or detour.
 
The trees are not respected. Robin-flecked, 
woodpecked, magpie-mauled,
ivy-strangled. And then decked
with little plastic bags of turd.
 
On the dog circuit there’s a hierarchy 
of nodding. We hone minimalist courtesies:
the cheery ‘morning!’ to the poodle-puller,
‘Hi’ to Mrs Labrador, a gruff ‘orreight?’
 
to the barrel-chested gun-dog man.
The never-smiling collie-shifter
(different dog, same green mac these ten years)
never fails to greet. Others watch their feet
 
and when we leave the stream and trees
to natural riot, distance steps in.
Meeting in the wrong place, we have learned
to grace our awkwardness by raising eyebrows.
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how to approach a year

like a detective
combing for clues
scanning the verges for spent bullet cases
boot prints in soft mud
skid marks of getaway cars

like a wheelwright
working for the perfect
form to lift the weight of expectation
balanced to manage
the potholes of a passing hour

like a lost dog
barking at strangers
alert for the familiar call, the flung stick
dreaming of the glorious
grime of a spring shower

like an embroiderer
grasping the low light
to put the last touch on a gift for a loved one
immersed in the intricacy
awed at the needle’s power

or like an outlaw
glimpsed through the branches
imagining new worlds of justice
thieving the time
and pocketing stars