• Hugh Loxdale

The Pygmy Shrew*

Updated: Feb 16

I looked down with pity from a great height…

At the dead shrew lying in the road,

The quiet stretch that bends from Mackeyre End

To Common Lane in a broad sweep,

But before Sauncey Wood is reached.

It lay there, quite still, some two inches long, upside down

Under a cloudless summer sky:

Its snout long and be-whiskered;

Its tail, short and hairy;

Its small pink feet, delicate, perfectly formed,

Like a new-born baby’s, alas dead….

A tiny creature, pygmy amongst pygmies.

It had yet to be found by blowflies…

To be cleaned out, its grey pelt discarded

To reveal the skeleton below, white

And eventually bleached

By the uncaring sun.

We continued on with our walk on this fine, glorious day.

The lapwings wheeled and called above us over newly

Ploughed fields, rich and glistening.

Wrens sang shrill songs from the hedge.

All was well in our world: I was with my love…

And my friends.

But the shrew continued to haunt my thoughts.

Why had it died?

Was it hunger that had driven it to this extremity?

Or had it just given up the ghost,

Its urgent desire for life, struggle…and purpose?

Had its machinery just switched off, conked out…

To leave it stranded, high and dry

On the stream of tarmac that leads

To home and fulfilment?

Even recently, perhaps a few hours before,

It had grappled with huge roving beetles,

Wrestled with earthworms much larger

And more powerful than itself.

Only its courage, its ferocity, its sheer determination

And unbridled energy had, in the past,

Carried it on to victories and conquests

Won over its quarry, its enemy, its dinner.

Now it lay extinguished and I was sad.

Its little life had indeed been short,

Cut more so by processes that were unclear…

And as such, were disturbing.

Surely, it had not died in vain, nor one hoped,

In pain?

*Sorex minutus

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