Voices: Frieda Hughes: The Edinburgh Reading

Magpie bird sitting on a hedge in Sydney (AFP via Getty Images)
Magpie bird sitting on a hedge in Sydney (AFP via Getty Images)

Leaving the Welsh Hills for the lakes of middle England, I drive North;

Swathes of pink and yellow blooms festoon the central reservation,

Mostly ignored. Past sheep and cattle I head for Edinburgh. In the auditorium

I peel George from the page for the audience, magpie feather by magpie feather:

George picking the meat from the teeth of my compliant Maltese terrier

As she lies on her back with her legs in the air; George

Stealing an entire salami sandwich to bury in a flowerbed; George

Hiding thirty-five lightbulbs beneath the floorboards; George

Finding me everywhere as if I am lost. I am homesick for his mischief and attention;

For his games with string, rubber bands, the sink plug and carving knives.

My book brings him back to me – but only for the time I share the memory.

At home I touch the feathers of owls, the scales of python, the fur of ferret,

Chinchillas and huskies, checking blood flow, heartbeat, skin and bone.

Days away leave deadlines forming knots and entanglements, eliciting the answer; “no”

Over and over again, because of all the people I need to be

One is up a ladder hammering vine eyes into walls to tie back climbers

For a film crew from TV, coming to explore how George began;

One is writing this when they should be hanging paintings in my gallery,

Exhibition imminent; one is answering emails and failing to finish daily;

I am trying to multiply myself by moving faster, but the speed of light eludes me.