This poem is dedicated to my dog, Oscar, and my friend, Kathryn, who really did -
You asked for a poem about listening
How easy is it to represent a sound in words?
Take, for example, the sound of a dog's paws
on frozen leaves - a medium sized dog - and notice
how the pads spread apart. The leaves are stiff
and the ice crystals abrade each other.
The dog does not press down hard with his feet.
As he walks a few grains of frost cling
to his paws. When he runs he disturbs the leaves
so that they have a right side (frosted)
and an underside (unfrosted) like scraps
of satin cloth. The dog's breath steams
in the chill air. Far off to the south-east
dawn burns. A heron studies the river.
Soon rooks will rise from their roost to begin
a day's forage in the fields. And the sound? Crunch
is too sharp (boots walking on gravel). Crack -
no, that's pine resin in the fire. Snap -
worse still - twigs, not leaves, under the same boots.
It's the sound of movement on a still morning,
the sound of a dog's paws on frozen leaves.
© Mary Robinson 2015
(First published in The Poetry Review vol 105:2, Summer 2015)