The Fox

The fox is a single red stroke that cuts across
the clearing. The colour seems to hang like smoke,
you can almost see where she has come from.
Her musk (though you can smell nothing)
is specific like a thumbprint on the air.
It isn't raining but there's a kind of wet
on your face, a stickiness of insect juices dropped.
The fox is rusty-dull, discreet, not radiant or hot
or pulsing. Not agitated. Not randy.
She is completely dream and intelligence
sliding through the wet grass, the stinging nettles,
the little brittle helmets of dry seed,
a flower or two, relics of the drizzly, petalled summer.
The lyric fox goes down to the creek
where dark and dankness will mask her scent
and the lovely rosette of her face.
She'll be able to pause there, for a while, sip water
while the dogs swirl and bell in front of the Big House.

Bernadette Hall's ninth collection of poetry, The Lustre Jug (Victoria University Press) was launched as part of the Christchurch Arts Festival in 2009. It features artwork by the Auckland artist, Denis O'Connor. Many of the poems in this collection arise from the six months she spent in Ireland in 2007 on the Rathcoola Fellowship. In 2009 she was expert adviser to the judges of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards (poetry). She is a co-founder of the Hagley Writers' Institute which opened in Christchurch in 2008. 'When the War Came to Our Place: Catastrophe, the Media and the Word' her essay on the death of her niece, Shelley Mather, in the 2005 London bombings, was published in Takahe 66 in 2009.

Hall comments: 'The Rathcoola Estate, where I lived for six months in 2007, is situated in Donoughmore, a rural area in Co. Cork, about twenty five minutes drive from Blarney. Among the wonders there were the blue jays that came down to steal apples from the 200 year old apple trees in the orchard. And the foxes. I've long been fond of them, from Brer Fox to the silver foxes of the Arctic. I was desperate to see one.

One day when I was standing under huge oak and sycamores trees just beyond the stone walls that enclosed the orchard and not far from the creek, I saw the fox. She was surprisingly close. And I did experience a kind of deepening stillness, the words clearly in my memory from Ted Hughes' 'The Thought Fox' which I had taught to so many classes over the years. Ireland had this way of offering me 'for real' many things which literature had already embedded in my imagination.

This fox was completely unfazed by my presence in her space. She had already judged me as being of good will, or at least harmless. I was relieved to see her. That same morning the hunt had gone through the estate, tracking along the creek with a great hullabaloo, the dogs and the men all in a frenzy. I identified with her somehow. I admired the way she kept on calmly going about her own business.  I wished her long life, good health and a safe journey.

In his poem 'On Originality' (1977) Bill Manhire wrote of poetry 'This is my nest of weapons./ This is my lyrical foliage.' In his essay, 'Catholic with a small c' published in The Source of the Song(VUP, 1995), Andrew Johnston wrote 'A lyric poem occupies a space that has somehow been charged with meaning (or at least a sense of meaningfulness) as if a vacuum had been crossed by a spark.' So, a 'lyric fox' crosses a glade and it seems that all along she's been talking to me about poetry.'

Poem source details >



New Zealand Book Council writer file
Victoria University Press author page
Tasmania Pacific Region Poetry Prize for Settler's Dreaming
New Zealand Electronic Text Centre: online work
ka mate ka ora 6: Paths Crossing and Wires
Turbine 06: Hazardous Beauty – an interview with Bernadette Hall