Three in the Woods

by Charles Evans

In the woods she skipped at my feet, swung on my arm,
pestered for stories, as the dead leaves drifted down,
and my wife, thoughtful, slightly apart, walked ahead,
when my small daughter looked up to the high branches
and pointed suddenly to the black bird which swooped
clattering, from the bare tree-top, wheeling across the
dark clouds, as she jumped for joy and tugged my hand,
and I lifted her in my arms, shouting at the sky
Mrs Big-Wing has gone shopping! and my daughter
clapped her bright red mittens, and laughed aloud.

On the path we slid in the wet mud, splashed our boots,
as her mother, ahead, touched the oak and wandered
alone between tall trees, when before us, a squirrel
paused, eyed, picked up a nut, then rounded the trunk in
a grey flash and I took the hand of my small daughter
and we followed him laughing round and around,
as she splashed for joy through the brown puddles, and
her giggles echoed in the dark wood as I called out
Mr Humbly-Grumbly’s gone for his supper! and she
whirled the red mittens in two bright arcs at her side.

On the bank we slipped on the damp grass and slithered
into ferns and wet bracken, as far off the lone figure
turned and watched unmoving, and I waved while we
stood and wiped the caked mud from our coats, when
I saw, motionless, not ten yards distant, one forepaw
raised, the thin red fox peering through leaves, and
I hushed my small daughter and motioned, as he silently
slunk back, and her eyes widened and I whispered
Mr Slinky-Pants has seen us! over her muffled squeal
as she held one red mitten over her open mouth.

By the lake we stepped carefully to the edge and watched
as we saw the thrust of tiny flippers, and a green frog
darted like a spear below us, and my daughter called out
beckoning to where her mother stood like a statue
on the old wooden pier, and gazed out into deep water,
and did not turn or move, as my small daughter looked
back to me with the question unasked in her eyes, and
I drew her back in my arms and said softly to her
Mummy’s talking to God, and she pressed to her cheeks
the bright red mittens, and began to cry.