In the Fellows’ Gardens,
past the Deer Park,
a willow twists and stretches
out of a brown pool
like a giant Nāga
trailing garlands of green lace.

Along the avenues of Addison’s Walk,
among birch and beech,
chestnuts stretch out their branches
like semaphores,
and hang their leaves like flags;
green and gold and brown and red,
signalling the turn of the year.
Underfoot, chestnuts crunch
into yellow loam and gravel.

A Painted Lady,
blood cooled by October,
flutters by laboriously
in the thin air.

Michaelmas Term begins
in high spirits and confusion.
Crowds spill into the roads
among bicycles and car horns
and a sudden shower of fine rain.

Oxford gets its annual infusion
of fresh blood and celebration.

Academics, who sit on high,
lick dry lips in anticipation.
Just like the empty shells of the Dead
who followed Prince Teiresias
to meet Odysseus
at the World’s End,
by the River of Pain;
to drink the red blood
and recognise
the Living once again.



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