Gavin Jones – The Constellation of the Little Fox

“If you know what you’re listening for, and you concentrate hard enough, you’ll hear them up here, away from it all. We’ll see them.”
I listen. A fox barks.

       Some nights when we came up here, stargazing, you’d tell your stories as if I wasn’t there. Those nights were the best. You were an alien, a distant voice from another galaxy. You gestured to the stars.

       “I bet there’s another us, lying on one of them dots, looking out in our direction. One of them’ll look like you. Bet ya. But with green eyes and all grey.”
A second fox answers the first.

       Why, when I’m trying hardest not to, do I remember? I stare into the night and try and blank my mind. Instead, it’s me, thinking about you back then, talking in your sleep, muttering, obsessing about something in the corner of the room I couldn’t see. Just out of sight. And the clinical Beep, Beep, Beep from down the corridor.

       It’s this place that does it. It’s this lake. It’s these stars.

       The fox barks, across the lake, from the alders, by the water’s edge.

       “It’s all time travel and consciousness. You know the universe stretches out forever, to the start of time? Then one day, it sees itself. It’s like some speckles of dust start to sing. That’s what we are. Look.”

       You told me to look, the first time we came here. I looked. Between Deneb, Vega and Altair: The Little Fox – Vulpecula – a goose, dead in its jaws. A pulsar, a planet, a millisecond pulsar. I couldn’t see what you saw. I believed you, good enough, but the sky seemed empty. I felt your excitement. Now, I hear the fox, out by the alders, across the lake.

       There are thirty seven species of foxes – did you know that? They live everywhere, except Antarctica. You kept breathing, even though it hurt.

       There’s no true darkness, not even out here, far from the street lights. The ripples catch moonlight, silver rings become fragments, shards, then sink. I throw a small pebble into the lake. It skims. I hadn’t intended it to. Skip, skip, skipskipskip as it bounces away into the darkness beyond. I skim a second pebble and this time I notice the spaces. Did you feel that? The violent thump, thump of life and the stillness between?

       I close my eyes, and behind my eyelids I feel the scratch of a sandstorm. At the edge of the desert, where the beating in my chest ceases, I hear the yelp of a fennec fox, stretch out into space. An immense gust blows sand into the sky. Around each grain of sand another desert and in each desert an immense gust blows sand into the sky and the yelp of a fennec stretches out into space. A desert, an immense gust, the yelp of a fennec. Desert, Gust, Fennec.
In my chest, silence.
And you: still here.

       I close my eyes and hear the hum and whine of the aurora: the planet crying out as the sun scars it, as it has since it formed. And all about me, the ice cracks, aquamarine, royal blue, turquoise: fifty million years of rainbows, compressed into glaciers, a mile thick. Through my boots the cold seeps, into my feet through my gloves, into my blood, my heart, my still heart. And out there, on the wastes, an arctic fox cries out, beyond the vanishing point, beyond the far horizon.
In my chest, cold.
And you: still here.

       I close my eyes and in the hot, tropic dark, hummingbirds scream, no sugar in their blood, no flowers to hunt. The zorro vinagre licks its lips. Even in the dark, the forest feeds its own. If I had a heart it would beat. I’d give strength to those failing wings.
In my chest, nothing.
And you are still.

       The fox across the lake. The fox in the skies.

       No matter how far I dream, I can’t escape. I keep returning to those days. It’s always those days here. It has to be here.

       When there was no way out, the visits, the cleaning rota, the shopping trips, the “afternoon off” became all consuming. Normal became horrific, became necessary. The mechanical Beep, Beep, Beep, the stench of cleanliness, the gardens to walk in, when watching your pain got too much: just something to hold on to. And you’d always mutter, at whatever it was you saw in the empty magnolia painted corner of that room.

       The last time I looked into your eyes, I told you I loved you. You’d become transparent, silver, shining, deep, distant. I told you I loved you, and I left. I said I’d be back in the morning. I said, sleep well.

       It all stops. The barking of the fox, the spinning of the stars. They’re our home. We belong here, by this lake. It’s why it has to be here. The realisation comes as clear as the sky: the Little Fox, the line of Orion’s Belt, the feint haze of the Pleiades, the great line of the Milky Way across the expanse. They all lead back, to the moors, to the tarn, to the fox in the alders staring up at them.

       I am alone here. I am alone.

       Even your voice is mine. I can recall your words, but they’re in my voice.

       “There’s nothing to let go of, and everything to hold on to. Let’s do this ‘til the stars have all fallen, one by one, into the tarn.”
Tonight we are forever. Your tales continue to weave their way from my mind, to the bedrock, to the Earth. To the warm, warm Earth.

       I told you I loved you. But that’s never enough beneath the stars.
       A fox barks, from across the lake

       The lights in the sky:
       It has to be here.

Gavin Jones is a writer and artist living in the borderlands between Lancashire and Yorkshire. Over the years he has been a lecturer, a supermarket worker, a gardener, worked in museums and art galleries and run poetry and literary events. He has exhibited his artwork nationally and internationally, and has curated exhibitions of Artist’s Books. He is now a postgraduate researcher at the University of Huddersfield. He foraged for mushrooms when it was still niche.

You can find him at:

Gavin Jones Website

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