She walks the sods and the soils of the Marsh,
each saucer paw puddling the dirt
into oval dents. When ditches block
her path she leaps them, pitching her limbs
in a stretch across the stagnant waters --
a surge of blacks and sorrels burst
through the chilled air, chasing the ducks
from sleep in the reeds. She sniffs at the earth,
whiskers spreading the stiffened shafts
of winter wheat in whorls and swirls,
touching, tasting the tangs of this world.
She stills mid-step when she sees the prey:
a lamb-swelled sheep lifts up its head,
cud on the tongue, twitch-ears sculling
for a hint of sound outside the known
creaks and crackles of its cold-hugged home.
Slowly, she shifts -- a splint of an inch:
a slide of muscle, a slip of claw
through dock and clover, and crouch, and settle
the tail, and wait. Watch for the tuck
of a head, the scrape of hoof on ice ...
... and dash! Her furs flash as she streaks
across the turf; a tap of her pad
and they tumble down, a tousle of wool
and hoof and scat. The herd stampedes,
their bleat alarms alerting others:
danger! Danger! Dogs on the loose!
Teeth on the throat! Tearing, ripping.
Run to the gate; gather and huddle!
But she is no hound. She hauls her catch
back to the ditch, dips through the reeds
and into the water, etching a curl
of ripples from bank to bank as she paddles
her course to the sluice, and the sea beyond.