“No words to speak of,” a blog and poem by Lyn Dawes

No words to speak of,


so: fox thinks in music. Buzzy patterns,

sound stories in the present tense,

a solo instrumental or a symphony

incorporating what is noted, or is scent.

Reflections on the curious quest for sense.


The arctic fox runs to a polonaise 

of wild geese and star charts, the scales 

of winter. Icy patterns in a tone poem. 

Tapiola, thinks the Finnish fox,

gingerly bearing its fragile flame

through frozen forests under radiant skies.

The wing beats of the Bewicks swans

fall all around and are the phoneme gone.


Hungarian fox at dusk considers reels, 

thinks chords in which the weathers dance, 

a fiddle plays immoderate wind and rain,

a whirl of red and rabbits, fields in flower,

the careless popsong of the bumble bees. 

The timing’s irresistable; a rhapsody

in language that’s passed on by eyes. By mouth.


Cumbrian fox has spaces in its air

a Philip Glass effect where everything

that’s not strung out to music, must be minimal

a falcon cry that echoes round the fells

caught by a force of water in a pause for breath

and very distantly, the constant sea beat

mixed always with a bellow. Beast or horn.


Shropshire fox considers bright cantatas

of brook and breeze, a trillion little birds,

where squirrels add a clamorous interval

to nursery rhymes of beetle, worm and mole. 

Sharp warning to a quiver of sharp cubs.


The present tense. The fox thinks with its nose.

And when it ends it’s finished. So everything

that can be wondered, must be wondered now. 

Now fox comes home over the falling wall

at dawn to snuff around the wheelbarrow, 

revolve and settle to the ambient leif motif

of transatlantic jet, the muted motorway,

theme of a thrush, a harsh alarm, that pizzicato

syllable that ring necked parakeets have for ‘day’, 

a starting car, a medley of exuberant young,


a window going up. Hush. And a shutter clicks.

A bar of Mahler; Lieder und Gesänge. Sleep.



Red foxes are associated with people, but remain undomesticated; you can’t have a tame fox. There are one or two in the world, but they won’t breed true. Foxes look like a mix of cat and dog, but they are wild through and through, used to independence, and in anthropomorphic terms fierce, intelligent, and incredibly curious; always ‘sly’ in fairy tales. Despite their categorisation as prey or vermin, foxes thrive, living across the globe in a wide range of habitats. They are hunted because they eat domestic animals, because their fur is coveted, and because some people enjoy the feelings of power and self-righteousness associated with getting on horseback to chase a moving creature. They were taken to Australia for this purpose, where now there are more than 7 million foxes; the hunters outfoxed! Foxes move readily between town and country, do not grow obese on an urban diet (largely worms, snails and rats) and will only attack a human when truly afraid. Their lives are blighted by tapeworms, mites and traffic accidents, loss of habitat and lack of den sites, but the species thrives.  They communicate by scent, sound and body language; it’s interesting that for a species with no speech, they are doing almost as well as we humans in terms of world domination.  They must think something while they are sunning themselves, digging underground, hunting or hiding. Perhaps the only other sort of language the mind uses (apart from mathematics) is music. Foxes live close to the earth, and must be aware of what it is that generated the different sorts of music that we hear from communities of people across the world. Music’s a link with the earth that we hold on to as we spend our lives in our buildings; as the fox in the garden is a sudden reminder that all is not tame. For which we must be glad.


Lyn Dawes


Part of a writing group which benefitted from visitors such as Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, and Adrian Mitchell, Lyn's poems were read on Radio 4 and published in Poetry Durham, Writing Women, and Cumbrian anthologies. Lyn is now involved in an oral poetry group. She writes books for educationalists and is involved in helping children to read for pleasure.