His father gives him an old hunting coat –
scarlet, moth-eaten, the one he used
when he was ringmaster one summer.
Our son assembles his outfit –
a girlfriend bends, narrows her eyes
to apply makeup to his upturned face.
She kohls his eyes, lengthens lashes,
burnishes his lips cinnabar, finally sprays
to rust-redden his hair, already gelled wild.
He stands to adjust flame ears,
pulls on the geranium jacket.
In the autumn, having left home, he rings,
he says out on the dark road, he can see a fox –
there, there right in front of him,
as if I can see, as if I am with him.
He asks how it is now.
I say fine. It is time to let go,
so these reassurances
that all is well,
while under it
a vixen finds her den empty,
cubs gone – left or taken
the heart cannot tell the difference.
poem and photograph Rose Cook