Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Young Hedgehog

I have not seen a hedgehog where we now live, whereas in our two previous previous places they were fairly common. I never minded them. They ate snails and other bugs. Once, one fell from an overhanging bank into the compost bin. It had eaten royally on worms and the household refuge for a while but it had compacted the soil in its frantic efforts to get out. Hedgehogs are good climbers - if they tumble they form a ball, and the quills cushion the impact. But the smooth sides of the bin gave the poor creature no footage. At my approach it rolled into a ball. I got the coal shovel and lifted it to safety. Here’s a poem I wrote years ago.

A young hedgehog
paddles across
the patio unaware
that the wind has
dropped & sea-mist
drifts below an
orange sunset.

Across the goat
universe we journey
flesh and talent

the animal attempts
the brick steps, with
a final heave, scrambles
over the top.

latest says “in this
love business, boy
things are never just
what you want - not for
more than a day or two
in a decade, I reckon.”

The animal nuzzles past
butterbean and broccoli
whipped wicked in last
night’s storm…
Socks and jealousy.

it would be great to be
indifferent, cataract
& rapid emptied into
the moon-tossed ocean.
Instead we harbour
puritan prickles

The small creature
moves under the garden
shed, I can hear it
munching beetles and snails.

I have no idea what prompted the line ‘socks and jealousy’. But I still have a clear mental picture of that half-grown hedgehog clambering up those steps, impressive in its brute determination and power. I think I have fewer prickles now.

One morning at our previous house on the back lawn there was a whale of a racket coming from under a camellia tree. I went exploring. A hedgehog pair were having sex. My arrival interrupted them; they separated quickly and scuttled off. Pity, if I’d gone more quietly I might have seen what was happening. I’ve always wondered how they manage with all those prickles. I moved after them and sensing my approach, this time each curled up into a ball. Dorothy, our cat, stepped around them warily. I just stayed still. Slowly they uncurled, beady eyes measuring distances, then they made a run for it. Dorothy gave them right of way.

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