Moles, from Nearing the Border

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This is my one and only poetry collection from 1998 – and this isn’t a sales pitch: far too late for that!* – and one of the poems in it is titled Moles. In a previous posting I mentioned that writing poetry is like writing a diary, and this poem proves that for me, recounting as it does my then obsession with the moles destroying my garden and the impact this had on my attitude to killing animals, and the imaginative extrapolation of that to all killing. That wasn’t an original extrapolation by far, and as I re-read today, I am not sure how apt the metaphor for this is, but I am not about to fully second-guess the integrity of that, even if was naive. I also wouldn’t do so because the poem in my immediate previous posting Moles Again is a personal reference to this first one [and there is an ‘interim’ poem about moles that I can’t locate at the moment…**] and I find/found myself making that metaphoric link again, genuinely if still naively. And this observation is precisely why I am posting the original Moles poem here:


In the seventies I’d cohabit with spiders and flies
and chastise anyone who’d try to kill
my fellow creatures.
My home was theirs:
the garden, woods, farmers’ fields
and micro-cities temporarily exposed
by a large turned stone were untouchable lairs.

This wasn’t a belief
and they were not of God’s making,
but they breathed my air
to love, die and survive like the rest of us
in a natural cycle.

Now in my forties things change:
house and garden become belongings
and keeping a tidy lawn is like
adopting religion.
But I retain my sense of goodwill,
and having a family puts me
at the centre of the circuit.

Then the moles come.
Their blind devotion to making homes
drives me to stalk them on tip-toe
considering how to kill:
standing absolutely still,
I’ll shovel one out whole (if lucky),
otherwise, just stab with knife and fork,
whatever is to hand.

At school my students read Lord of the Flies
and I teach Golding’s warning of man’s inhumanity
to man, how for Hitler the Jews were just a nuisance,
an irritation, something putting a blot on the
aesthetic landscape of his wild imagination.

They say we are not an island
and how could anyone consider
such deadly discrimination?
I am in turn warned by their innocence –
until the moles re-enter my head.

I know they are digging inside
everyone and everyone’s land;
I know they show how easy it is
to descend to that desire that all
of the unwanted should be dead.

[*] In searching online for a copy of the cover of Nearing the Border to post with this – honestly, no other reason, though I decided to take a photograph anyway – it was interesting to see where the book can still be purchased: on Amazon UK Marketplace there is a used copy on offer from a chancer charlatan in New York for £80, and I can’t imagine anyone falls for the lure of this ludicrous inflation; a couple of copies are available in Australia, and there is a copy on ebay for around £4 that is advertised on its Italian site, though sourced from the UK. Just found that fascinating. Popular authors must have books out there in a genuinely global proliferation.

[**] Found,

No More Moles

The moles are gone
but underground are
shafts of darkness
awaiting their return.

Am I being cynical?
The surface is still
irregular and scarred
as if landmines were

recently placed there:
I have to walk carefully
in my own back yard.
Now I am waiting,

refusing to be complacent.
I see the mounds
in other lawns and fields
refusing to get the joke.

My students, now
reading Beckett’s Godot,
think I am the one
who is joking when I say

‘We are waiting for the moles’,
but I am older and know
how history has a way of
returning to its secrets.

This is a completist’s posting. This poem will have been written at least seven years ago, but I think it is a little older. It has been a very long battle.

1 thought on “Moles, from Nearing the Border

  1. Pingback: The Partial Catharsis of a Mole Saga | mikeandenglish

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