July 31, 2018 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

Damien Walmsley photo



Penn Kemp




A Child’s Garden Fox



Sleepy, sleeping in my mother’s lap. Nestled.

When. A fox ran in front of the car. And

was transfixed by the headlights. Ran and

ran in front of the car but could not escape

the trajectory of light. Caught. Turning head

back, tongue lolling, as in the pictures of foxes

hunted. The eyes like cats’ catching the light

and transmuting it phosphorescent, bouncing it

back. Look! He shook his head and ran off into

the woods. Finally. I did not wake up.


But that night, for nights afterward, a fox was

in my bed. Under my bed. In the closet. Mommy,

there’s a fox in my bed! Make him go away. He

was very large. His coat shot off sparks in the dark.


His eyes were lit coals. He had sharp white teeth. He

was hungry. He smelled musty. He was prowling. He

might have been growling. A sudden switch of the light

evaporated him. I could just catch his tail glimmer away,

up into the fixture. He would curl behind the light, cunning,

until the light was turned off. Then he’d continue to search.


My father for comfort explained that foxes were quite small,

really, like little dogs, and they were more scared of me than

I was of them. Well, I couldn’t imagine the extent of their fear

then. The fox I knew wasn’t scared one bit. He was going to eat

me alive. Unless I played dead. I froze into the mattress.

The folds of the sheet turned marble, a frieze. The fox could

not smell out the stiff and still. I could sleep. Warily.


By day my father used his imagination. Foxes are really tiny, he

said. So small you can hardly see them. That is because you watch

from daylight eyes, I thought, and foxes come out in the dark. So

small you can never see them. Look! There’s one now. He followed

a something flying and caught, cupped it in his huge hands. Slowly

he opened them to let me see. Shh. It’s a fox, he said, and they scare

easy. Be very quiet. I peered into the dark cavern of his hand. That

something, nothing, was gone, not in palm’s hollow, nor the crevices

between fingers. Look, there he is! Flying, there! I followed his eyes,

their darting, dubiously, till catching on. Hey, another one! He pointed,

exulting. I’ll catch it, I squealed, and caught it. I’ve got one. The nothing

in my hand brushed my skin like a moth’s wing, tickling, powder. See?


Dad looked in. The fox flowed out and perched atop the china cabinet

where no-one could reach. Never mind, there’s another! We were all

around the room after foxes. They never stayed in my palm for inspection

the way they did in dad’s. I tried to see their wings. I didn’t know foxes had

wings. They were all around the room, hovering, at the edge of sight, and

prancing. Tiny pairs of eyes glowed from the chandelier, from the top book

shelves. They were like fireflies. Whose lights went on, went out.





Click here for a video reading of the poem





Mary McDonald photo

Penn Kemp

Penn Kemp is an activist Canadian poet, playwright and editor.  Her latest works are Local Heroes, and the forthcoming Fox Haunts. Recent books include Barbaric Cultural Practice and two anthologies edited, Women and Multimedia and Performing Women. See www.pennkemp.weebly.com.


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