Don’t underestimate
how cold it can get here at night,
around dawn. Minus five
sometimes, often below zero.
That’s on clear winter nights.
When it clouds over
the temperature rises.
It doesn’t snow
(though it has flurried
unofficially, bringing
denial denial denial).

So when the first bobtail
to allow itself seen as winter
closes and September
days warming
nights still chilly, plays
its ambiguities, we
latch onto portent.

The bobtail emerges
from beneath boulders,
its colouring slightly
off, and much skinnier
than any bobtail
I’ve previously seen.
Woken too soon
but just in the nick
of time, tail emptied
of hibernation fat.

In cold, patchy sunlight
it is barely articulate.
Sluggish reptile. Unable
to jump-start, catch
its faster prey. It
needs more than slug
sustenance. Hoodwink
of orbit when tilt
is the arbiter.

Don’t underestimate
the thermostat
of a famished bobtail:
suddenly brisk
with vulnerability,
snapping its jaws shut
to leave a sore
that will never heal.
Or so it is said.