The Midnight Fox

26th January 2001 at 00:00
Hollie Pinchera, 10, Forden primary school, Welshpool, Powys


Moon shine

On a bitter cold night

Freezes my silky, jet-black coat.

I smell the enemy,

The old wicked tang.

I creep towards the hollow thorn trail,

Past the spiky hairy trees.

Hiding from the hunters

Who try to capture me

In a bubble of death,

Who try to surround and

Suffocate me with fear.

This poem reminds me strongly of Ted Hughes's "The Thought Fox". Like that poem it's far more than a nature exercise and the fox is much more than a wild creature.

I admire the urgency of the first-person narration and the simplicity of line and language. Supported by unforced alliteration, these bring clarity and depth. Uneven rhythms convey a sense of urgency and, by the end of the chase, enact a sense of breathlessness and threat. The fox is intensely alive: jet-black in the moonlight, aware of its own silky movement, its senses sharpened by fear and the hunting instinct. The sense and scent of the enemy as "an old wicked tang" is brilliantly realised. The "bubble of death" which threatens to surround and stifle the fox seems at the same time transparent, insubstantial and hermetic.

It' the psychological truth of the poem that impresses. A moment in the nocturnal life of the fox becomes a moment of recognisably human anguish. The threat remains remote and unspecified; what impinges with real urgency is the paralysis of fear. Like the bubble, this fear seems at the same time tangible and an effect of imagination.

The fox is alien, both other-worldly and eerily familiar; part of, yet threatened by, the night; "coming about its own business" both outside and inside the reader.

Hollie Pinchera receives The Puffin Book of 20th Century Children's Verse, edited by Brian Patten. Her poem was submitted by Christine Robinson. Graham Mort is TES guest poet for this term. A freelance writer and tutor, his latest collection, Circular Breathing (Dangaroo Press), is a Poetry Book Society recommendation. Please send poems, no longer than 20 lines, to Friday magazine, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. Include the poet's name, age and address, the name of the submitting teacher and the school address. Or email: The TES Book of Young Poets (pound;9.99), a selection of poems from this column, can be ordered by phoning 01454 617370. A set of posters is available for pound;3.99

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