• Simon Armitage


I was minding my own,

           kicking along

          through beech mast


and leaf-litter

           down by the pond

           when it spat into flight,


a head-shot triggered

           from ground level, a bolt

           of rifle-straight bill


and chevroned wings - one wingtip

           feathered my temple.

           But no trace


of its skulking, no tripod footprints

           or needled mud, no lair or scrape

           where it had crouched, cocked


in the scrubby margin.

           No spent cartridge.

           I looked it up


in an old field guide: snipe:

           to aim a put-down

           or snide comment.


Single round,

           lone marksman.

           Could have had my eye out.