Hot Desk Extract: Fox Dialogues: reports from the natural world

As part of the Wheeler Centre's Hot Desk Fellowship programme, Nimity James worked on a collection of prose poems, Fox Dialogues: reports from the natural world, exploring the seemingly deep need to have animals as a powerful, even mythical force in our lives.

Using old newspaper reports, Google searches on particular phrases and dreams, she developed a collection of found poetry that investigates ideas around nature as a transformative power, as consolation and how it can help us find meaning in the world.

Photograph of a swan in water

Image: Scott Limbrick (modified from a photo by Mark Jones, CC-BY-SA 2.0)

1.

Fox dialogues

The foxes talk to each other at night. They climb trees and hide in hollows. Father flushed a fox from a tree today. It jumped out of a hollow almost thirty feet from the ground. It was off like a shot. We’ve had a lot of rain lately. The crops are coming up nicely. The dog caught the fox by the tail. My teacher’s name is Mr Bowles. He boards with Auntie. I never before heard of foxes climbing trees. 

Source: Letters to the Editor, The Albury and Wodonga Express, Friday 28 July 1911

2.

Faith is the bird

For Lucia Joyce

The bird alights in full or partial light. The bird has light highlights but the background inclines toward dark. Follow the carefreeness of the bird. It is bright and light but the bird’s lightness is a heavy burden. Poor bird. Yet it is poor and not poor. It has a long road but it takes the shortest cut. What shall it eat? The bird measures with the mouth and that is enough. Everything is fine until one day. This makes her sad.

Come to the roof and count the birds.

The bird is light and flighty. It watches the boy: heavy and sad. Because the bird is lightweight it’s extremely sensitive. It’s wild-tumult and long-range. The bird is light enough that a few down airs will fairly ‘sturb. Best to flap with some down wash to force it up to you. 

Source: Internet search on the phrase ‘the bird is light’, May 2007

3.

Dr Fox

My bare feet throw up dust as I run. They are fast and they are runaway enchantment.

I am flying over the paddock. I am running away from something. I don’t know what it is. I am running away from something. I meet a fox along the way. I don’t know what it is. He is wearing a bow tie and smiling. I meet a fox along the way. I don’t like bow ties anymore. He is wearing a bow tie and smiling. I don’t trust anyone who wears a bow tie. I don’t like bow ties anymore. They are fast and they are runaway enchantment. I don’t trust anyone who wears a bow tie. My bare feet throw up dust as I run. They are fast and they are runaway enchantment. It is after me for something. My bare feet throw up dust as I run. I am flying over the paddock.

Source: Dream, June 2010

4.

Grief bird

Over the paddocks we fly. We pull up at a washed out gully. From the back of the ute I take a shovel. It slips from my hands and leads me to a duck standing by the creek. ‘Little duck’ I say, as it nestles into my shoulder. I marvel at its bill, black and broad and surprisingly soft to the touch. How long it is! In my delight I start to sing. The words come easily, so too, the tune. How bright and strong and bold I am. I sing about freedom and about truth. I sing for the bird but also for me. Oh bird –­ how happy we are! How I love you and how it hurts me to leave!  I see the shovel lying beside the creek; my mother and brother are waiting. Just one more minute. 

Source: Dream, June 2017

5.

 The Swan

By the song of the birds
By the murmur of the young leaves
I saw it with sincere delight
A swan
With free and graceful movements
Taking his morning bath. 

How bright and strong and bold I am. I sing about freedom and about truth. I sing for the bird but also for me. Oh bird –­ how happy we are!

He threw the waves about
Fresh and clear, they danced and foamed around him
And made the white down still more dazzling
And reflected in each drop the beautiful ruler.

What harmony!
What freshness!
What beauty between this being and the world. 

Yet by degrees it caused me a deep melancholy.
I thought: this creature moves like a lord.
His element closes around him
Only to lighten his enjoyment of his life. 

While man in continual strife
Trammeled in all his movements
Oppressed by the very air which he breathes.
Is the slave of creation.

Source: Newspaper article, The Manchester Times GazetteSaturday 16 September 1843

Portrait of Nimity James

Nimity James studied writing at RMIT University. In 2016 she was awarded a Varuna Residential Fellowship and was a finalist in the 2017 Newcastle Writers Festival joanne burns Microlit Award for her prose poem 'Anniversary', published in the Spineless Wonders Time anthology. She lives in Melbourne.

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