A poem by Elizabeth Philips
Black fox

Photograph: Maggie Angus

The black fox is a stream she divines by chance
or geometry, a flash of dark fluidity, the crest
of a night wave, its sharp muzzle and sharper
eyes. Her path and the fox’s path, not quite
parallel lines, arrest at confluence—
they hover, eye to eye, the shortest distance
between two points.

The fox has encountered a human
before, she can see the calm in its
hesitation, its poised, exact
appraisal. The two of them afloat
on the greenery of their discrete
trails, the fox’s less discernible, and low-
slung, hers wide, groomed, almost a road.
One all-encompassing gaze

and the fox dismisses her, she feels herself drop
as the black head swims into the grey
cross-hatching of alder—it swallows
the elliptical sweep of tail, white-
tipped, as if the water the fox is
frothed just there. A form drawn
from nothing, as hers is, the water
she is, upright, cylindrical, a standing

well or a stranded waterfall, too far
from the earth and lonely for it. She’s covetous
of every still pool or rill, of the innumerable
lives at home in the planes of light
and dark, moving among the conifers
which do not walk, their slow
green turbulence the fox flows into an intimacy
—ground-swell—between the forest and all other
forms of water.


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