By George Szirtes

The rabbits are about their business
of softening. They congregate in gangs
by hedgerows as if waiting for an event
of greater softness to overtake them.
The cloud overhead grow rabbit scuts
and bolt across the field in evening dress.
The whole sky is purpling with the scent
of evening. A clock opens and shuts
time out. Flowers bend on a single stem
and wind plumps wings to leaves.

Rabbits flicker into open spaces
all by themselves, exploratory, vague,
bristling in the wind, apologetic.
Out of sight they settle
delicately then hop away, their faces
dreamy and purposive. They are a thick-
ening in the dark, a curl of soft metal,
a wholly benevolent plague
for which woolly words have to be invented,
something earth- and dropping-scented.

They lollop about in silence for a while,
shiver and bob, nibble, dart back
into their holes, peek out. Soon the field
swallows them whole. The clock claps
its hands. They run off scared. The wind
bursts from a hedge and over a stile.
Leaves mumble, their lips are sealed.
The train swoops down its sinister track
and the clouds make dramatic shapes
in the sky which is dropping like a blind.

Something of terror remains in the grass
where the rabbits have been. Night
comes on as the negative of daylight. Where
is the bristling gone? Something is shaking the train.
An old man holds his cup in trembling fingers,
waiting for the tremor to pass.
Insignificant stations swim through the air
in a fog of names.Some warmth lingers
in them and hovers there like a stain
or a bird or a figure in mid-flight.

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