Category Archives: animal


It’s intriguing how movement can turn one thing into another…


A sudden start
as the passing wind
of preceding cars
eddies squirrel shimmies
from an unseen discard,
and the label, darker
than a clear bottle,
squirms a small
mammal’s jig.

Fists clench wheel,
I’m ready to pedal hard,
hazard up-thumb mercy,
break and clutch and pray
for life. But, no.
Time split squints
and it’s empty dead,
just more trash,
more unkillable





Very pleased to have ‘Struck’ published at the Poetry Shed. 

This one was inspired by an object shown to me many years ago by the very knowledgable Sandy Edwards, who was curator of the Bell Pettigrew Natural History Museum at the time. Since then I have (amongst other things!) spent many years being fortunate enough to do ‘media odd jobs’ for researchers involved in studying the scope and meaning of sounds made by marine mammals. My knowledge of what they do is slight, but I continue to find what they discover remarkable and inspiring.



I originally wrote this intending to send it in to Visual Verse for a great image of a horse by Bruce Connew. I never got around to it, and I’d forgotten about the poem until I happened on it today. Anyway, I still kinda like it, I hope you will too. As often from me, there’s also some sciencey inspiration – see below…


Karen McComb, who heads the research group and co-lead author of the study, said “Horses may have adopted an ancestral ability for reading emotional cues in other horses to respond appropriately to human facial expressions during their co-evolution. Alternatively, individual horses may have learned to interpret human expressions during their own lifetime.”
Source: ‘Horses can recognise human emotion, study shows’ Guardian 10/2/2016



scary sounds tinder
my right brain.
my left eye

you. your voice. angry. anger. danger. is it?
do i? do we? does the herd?
set, set, set.
my heart revs.

a dren a lin.
ready, twitch, ready.
muscles cinch.
ears prime.

time made your mood our threat.
your anger the wolf on the prairie.
your impatience an adder under-grass.
your oath hard iron in flight.

so if you don’t need to, just don’t.
step calm. breathe gentle.
speak less. listen more.
hear. my. gaze.





Jail broken

‘Crow 6’ by David Ladmore. Reproduced with kind permission from the artist

Constrained clumsiness
skitters in the corner of my eye,
irking like a bluebottle corked,
erratic flutterings meshed into
a five foot box cell silhouette.

I suppose crow smarts
finagled entrance,
then failed to find egress.
The track bears left,
I turn right to interrogate.

I twist the small door’s snib
with little further thought.
Perched on the threshold
he black eyes my framed bulk.
When I side-step, he gunnels out.

His burst plummets off-kilter,
one wing clattered perhaps
in thrashing runways at escape.
Have I just made a fast-food snack,
free to the quickest clench or bite?

I re-snib the door in stealth,
glancing late inside the cage.
Two wrecked hares gore-pecked,
half a smeary tub with water –
intentions here of some survival.

But what kind of gamekeeper
aids and abets a carrion crow?
Unkent to urban bumpkins perhaps –
a trapper’s ruse, a jig set to dance,
bait to snag a raptor’s gaze?

Walk on. Am I just a jail-bird’s patsy,
stumbling in imagined manumissions,
meat and water, caged as maybe? Still –
not half-a-second stood by unstolen,
before air was ripped apart in broken flight.




Fafernie is a rounded top
astray amid other places.

Southeast a shank to the Knapps,
slow strewn stone rumpled ancient beds.

Northwest Callater glens a way
to distant Cairngorm stories,

if these are unobscured by clouds
looming grey with rain lofted into snow

as ambiguous as now.


At the small cairn a throw from the top
I meet ptarmigan partners.

Sighting me they take stations:
he stands porcelain on the topstone,

eyeing me with red khol caution.
A step past, she sits well grounded,

dissolving spring speckle into
lichen and wind rounded stones

as still as earlier ice.


Bending slowly, I rediscover
her against the uncertain sky.

Firmly static, from above she flickers
lost and found and lost again.

Stalking an unready camera,
I exist too much, and they burst

in flurry croaked alarms of flight,
just far enough to horizon me

as vanished as myth.




We are krill

A while back I half joked with a colleague at work who was asking about a website for a conference for international researchers studying krill – “I could write you a poem as well, if you like.”  He was back in touch with another question last week, and asked in passing, “Did you ever write that poem?” Well, I hadn’t, but I have now – so here you go, Andy!

My apologies to any krill-gurus out there for possible wild inaccuracies, but please remember, it’s not science – just a poem.

But also, it’s not entirely about krill…


We are krill

I am the meal that’s in-between,
a format suiting one and all,
for seals and squid and penguins,
converting the smallest of the sea,
for fish and shrimps and people, the
unseen convenience food that’s me.

No legends sung about us krills,
shape shifters of seven seas,
they ping us under pressure,
exoskeletons creaking we dive, dive, dive,
cosy swarm lights rising fallen,
gills bless this brine to wines of life.

More of us aswim than any other
swelling life in each ocean alive,
and not much here without us,
no great whales baleen or blue,
without some fish-free small fry,
brother, without us – me and you.






A Poetry of Elephants

An excellent project by Rebecca Gethin.
Very pleased to have one of my poems (The End of an Elephant’s Tail) included.

Rebecca Gethin

If you press this – A Poetry of Elephants –  you will find our anthology of elephant poems. So here’s huge thanks and grateful hugs to all the many contributors: I never envisaged so many lovely poems would  respond to my call-out!  Twenty four poets have sent twenty nine poems in about a fortnight. Please feel free to share this with anyone and everyone.


When I went to Saba Douglas-Hamilton’s inspiring talk about her organisation ‘Save the Elephants’ she said that we should all do what we can and that made me think of putting together a collection of elephant poems to explore ways in which elephants are a vital part of our culture even though we are not living in elephant habitat. A week ago Kenya set fire to 11 pyres of elephant tusks which I read represents 30 miles of elephant, standing trunk to tail.  I desperately hope that…

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