From brown on brown, a tall fawn eating blackberries. Look how it hasn’t seen me yet – head in the bushes full of flies, hindquarters flexing and flinching as it browses closer, closer, greedy moulting drunk then suddenly up it startles, leaping towards me instead of off through the thicket. Closer still it steps, till I can see the scratches on its nose, and hold my breath and superstitiously look down into the grassy path it treads as one wide eye at a time inspects my outline. Now I’m something else it knows, safe to leave slowly. Through and through for each look back it gives I’m breathing thank you.
We are alive nine months before we breathe but only when we take our first breath live, we learn it once, then we forget we learned and learn to think of our best thoughtless acts –
kindness, for instance, or praise – as rising naturally as the breath we take no credit for, as if only rewards we don’t intend to earn can bless us, just as I was blessed with thanks in the wood for what I held my breath to see, the rising natural word of it mine to give as thoughtlessly as heart and lungs return borrowed air, or as the deer turns back
to look at me once more and disappears into the blackberry bushes a different deer.
Twilight in the rain and still the blackbirds keep tidying up. No twig or feather, it seems, no sudden footstep or new call can be ignored, as if in their response to this dim dripping green-slurred world, its noisy microscopic fuss and bother, underground networks, silks and sacs and spores, its insect millions, rabbit badger fox even me in my best silence, overheard, their lives entirely consist. Together we are a passing back and forth rapport, the wood’s one sound, a song that never stops. To listen and be listened to the trees and I stand in the rain wet through.