I’ve taken to running around the field behind my house -
you might not call it running -
but there is an element of privacy the field affords
which enables me to drop the detail
of speed and style.
The field belongs to a school and strictly speaking
no one but they should use it –
but all the households that back onto it
have fashioned secret gates into fences.
Dog walkers are discreet -
carry small plastic bags
so as not to leave evidence of their trespass.
I prefer to avoid them so wait
until the field is empty -
apart from the birds -
whose species take turns at flocking over the central green.
Black-headed gulls confer
before taking to the skies to survey the city
as I tamp toward them.
Jackdaws stand their ground
are more accommodating -
allowing clumsy wood pigeons to graze amongst them.
Two-tone black-grey heads nod at a scattering of feathers -
tiny heads coo in blankness –
feeling no attachment to the remains of a peer -
oblivious to the succulence of their own plump bodies.
Some strange evenings
there are herons -
alien and enigmatic -
they illuminate the duplicitous nature of this grassy rectangle –
at once a place of play
and an arena for clandestine crime.
It is well situated for those wanting to make a get-away
from casual theft -
as it is unlit at night
and becomes a yawning spread of darkness
anything might dissolve.
But in these covid days it is a refuge -
a place to stretch legs, lungs, heart
and to be thankful for the substance of oneself.
I wear unsightly purple headphones –
a clear indicator that I do not wish to interact.
I am taken aback when a voice cuts through the soundtrack
with a ‘hello’ thrown at me from a lawn -
my reflex is to respond in like
but I am rattled –
do not want to be part of a passing parade.
I settle to a rhythm and look up to the far end
where a group of middle-aged men -
paunches pushing holiday shorts
pint glasses at angles sloshing liquid -
have leaked from an overgrown back-garden.
They watch me questioningly.
I pick up the pace and -
like the starlings that cover the ground today -
feign disinterest and take another lap.
I have half-forgotten as I approach again
cannot place an unfamiliar call in the air -
harmonious and lovely
it rises above
the story I listen to
and brings me into the present -
the men are singing -
an illicit choir -
they take a risk
with this outdoor lunchtime recital.
as I drink water in the kitchen -
I see them from the window
skulking beside the pavilion -
like schoolboys furtively smoking -
what times we live in.