Monday, 18 April 2016

Battue - a poem by C.O. Jellema


Long spoonlike ears against his back full-flattened,
huddled deep in the furrow lay the hare,
and I, as I drew nearer, pretended,
forsaking my task as a beater, not
to have caught sight of him, not his eyes bulging
with fear, void as if not perceiving me,
not behind me unbounded freedom, but
an inner nothing, a hole at his feet,
too deep, too wide to dare to think of leaping.
Then, as I made the step that took me past him
in a split second he was gone – and turning
(to cursings from the ditchside, though no shot)
I saw him make his dash for the horizon,
a mere dot now on white hard-frozen clay.

How did he meet his end I wonder. Braised
in wine, run over by a car perhaps
or simply from old age among cold furrows –
when in spring in the field outside the house
the hares romp and tumble, I think of him:
how fear can sometimes be a sudden force
that sets you free down to your pounding heart.
It could be, if the hole that grows in me
becomes too deep, too wide for any leaping,
a hare will plead my case with god (for
an animal that knows fear has a soul, too,
that is saved), if only since I remember
that morning, that one step and that instinct
with which life saves itself by its own force.

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