Catching Sight of the Urban Fox

In the bright light of morning, generous for March,
the supermarket wall glows browning Satsuma
ambered in the sun like the blanched pages
of well-thumbed paperbacks in the hothouse windows
of the charity shop two doors down but one.

A more debonair of down-and-outs,
a tramp who’s used to tramping about
so does in a mature, dignified manner,
pushes his supermarket trolley of belongings
along (as if a golf bag in the absence of a caddie)
piled up with plastic bags, empty Coke bottles.

He comes to a philosophical halt
in a nice patch of sun, meticulously tips
the trolley on its side, then slowly sits on it.
He checks himself, nose twitching, ears a-flicker,
in his vast shaving mirror – the glass wall Waitrose
so politely provided him and those of his sort
who need to keep check on the quality of their manicuring.

He’s a very true gentleman. Truest of all:
less incentive than most to keep himself clean;
tidy. He looks at his best, most refined,
gentleman’s tweed cap correctly positioned
in perfect symmetry with his clean-shaven face;
his thinning grey straw-like hair neatly combed out
of all its irritating mites.

The only thing letting his apparel down
is his hole-torn rain-mac serving as
a dust cover for his classier, half-
-concealed over-coat of deep fox brown.

Come to think of it, he looks like a fox,
not crafty and devious as Beatrix Potter’s,
but pointedly razor-red of face (burst
blood vessels from cold, not booze; no soberer
man has tramped in those un-scuffed shoes),
alert, sharp, proud. And most of all, free.

The spit of an eccentric country gentleman
unaccustomed to the hustle-bustle
of bristling city life; quite out-
of-kilter in a Mad Hatter-ish way –
we used to see them all the time,
swinging on lamp posts in Seventies’
Goring-By-Sea; Mad Hatters we
labelled them Carrollishly.

It’s very rare to get this close to an urban fox,
scrimping in its stubbly native habitat,
licking its mitten-paws to wipe its side-boards clean –
it’s as if I’m not here – as if he can’t see me.
Or just doesn’t care.

He’s tame as a flea.

Alan Morrison

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