Driving back from the literature festival

through Otley handsome in black stone

with white revers of painted windows and doors

I follow behind a tin truck

gaping an open vent high up at the back.

Stopped at the lights the gap is filled

with broad snout, a wet black sponge for sucking up

sweetness from deep in summer grass.

You crane your head in the hole sideways to let

each eye in turn roll up at the sky.

Deep in the tumbril shock you don’t speak.

I know where you’re going this summer’s morning

and feel you know it too though how

when no-one has ever come back with tell-tale

smell of blood and fear on staring hide?

I imagine though I can’t see the shrunken dug

flat as a perished rubber glove.

The street is called Wharfedale View. It looks across

to where the moors throw a green quilt

for miles under a high sky. Why can’t I just

draw the steel bolt on the tailgate

and let you run and run up there till you drop?

But the lights change. You turn Left; I go Right

for Leeds and perhaps I’m quite wrong

and you’re just being moved on to new pasture.

Then why can’t I safe home sleep

but see still your face laid along the tailgate

with one moist eye turned up questioning

whether I would have drawn that bolt

if you’d been able to ask me in a tongue

I couldn’t kid myself I misunderstood?

© 1985 Maureen Duffy. From The Extended Circle: An Anthology of Humane Thought by Jon Wynne-Tyson, Open Gate Press, 2008.

Maureen Duffy’s celebrated works include 5 volumes of poetry, many novels, including the acclaimed That’s How It Was, and Men and Beasts: An Animal Rights Handbook. Her latest novel, The Orpheus Trail, is published by Arcadia Books.