The Wild Area

We pick our way through bramble,
follow a rough track over lumpy, broken ground,
climb a small bank, step over roots, duck down
and enter a space enclosed beneath
the tangled, overhanging branches of a wild cherry.
The world outside shuts off.
It’s shaded there,
all earth and green,
lit only by pale threads coming in through the leaves
and by Maria’s smile, which is as childlike and wide
as her enthusiasm for the place.
There’s a log in front of the treetrunk
and she tells me that she likes to come here
to be alone, to sit there, to listen and to watch
and just be still.
She could stay there, she says, all day.
We stand for a time not speaking
then duck our way out again, and on the way back
pause, for her to show me the track of flattened grass
that runs down from the fence behind the tree
into the garden, which is where the fox comes out.
She’d like to see it, though till now she never has,
but it’s good to know it’s there, an unknown
secret presence in the place, its tutelary spirit.
And when we’re out again, Maria shows me on her phone
a photograph she took of a yellow butterfly
in sharp-edged closeup,
perfectly caught in its moment of rest,
filling the whole frame.