Poem – C K Stead

91 Woodstock Road

Less timid each day the squirrel comes to our door
for her morning conker. I’ve gathered them from
                                                the carpark

by the Faculty Library, enough to keep her supplied
well into winter. In quick paws she spins it

cleaning its shell, then bounds and ripples away
to bury it somewhere. I’ve watched her dig one up

for relocation in the lee of the wall.
Storms have wrecked the neat domain of the man

who comes each week, sent here by the College,
with a switchy broom to sweep and gather leaves

and tidy beds. In a voice all ois and rrs
he tells me squirrels bury their nuts in pairs,

one to be eaten, one to germinate –
planting ahead by arrangement with the trees.

Today’s seminar by an Australian professor
is “Evils of Empire and the Transformative Power

of Post-Colonial texts”. Fluent and abstract,
certain of virtue, he invites us all to join him

in a righteous chorus. I think of Mrs Squirrel’s
ease of instinct. Consciousness comes at a cost.

                                                Oxford, 22/11/96


C K Stead

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