Issue 18: Jeremy Noel-Tod
(Tom Raworth Memorial)

What to Look for in Winter

for Tom Raworth

This is not so; they have been hiding in some safe place through the winter months, and are tempted out by the warm air. Around them the old leaves of last year still cling. Only about a quarter of it is left. The sheep can pull at it through the wide meshes.

Chunks of it lie among the frosted grasses, and already many birds have come to peck for worms and insects. These have a soft, queer feeling when squeezed. They litter the ground, and many will be blown in at cottage windows.

They have sealed themselves into their shells with their own slime, and will not move until the spring sunshine tempts them out. Some few, like those amongst the grasses, are half-decayed, only the veins remaining like delicate fairy-skeletons.

They have to gnaw to live, and that is partly why they are so destructive. They have grown wise in judging their chances. Their erect stems are unbent by the snow, and their bright faces tell of the returning springtime.

Perhaps that is so. We do not know. No wind is blowing, and the distant trees show mistily in the winter air. If you wait and watch, you will be surprised to see how far away they come up again.

Jeremy Noel-Tod teaches in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. His most recent book is The Whitsun Wedding Video: A Journey into British Poetry (Rack Press).