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Elegy for a Fox

Updated on November 1, 2011
The Fox.
The Fox. | Source

As you scouted for a place to dig a den
To hole up for the winter with your vixen
I felt your presence in among the trees
Before I saw your tawny fur
Bobbing through the woods
In a leisurely manner
On a course designed to intercept me

And there at the boundary
Of some human notion of property
Marked by a line of Norway pines
You emerged a few feet away from me

With a bit of alarming eye contact
You followed me as I stepped back
And you smiled with a smile that said, “Hello.”
As I fumbled with a fallen steel fence post
Still wired to its half-buried neighbor
Quickly dropped in favor
Of a more accessible piece of wood
That I hoped would help me defend my honor
Against such a bold, if diminutive, predator

I made a relatively orderly retreat
Brandishing my weapon threateningly
As you continued to escort me
Seemingly unconcernedly
Keeping a semi-respectful distance
Of detente an uneasy dance

I tried not to stumble over broken glass
Backing my way across the abandoned parking lot
Reached the sidewalk
Weighing options of fight or flight
As you sat on your haunches and yawned

As I stepped back over the curb my heart pounded
For the sidewalk was a corridor by fences bounded
And if you followed me in there it would be tight
I might have to strike
You might have to bite

But you watched me a bit quizzically
Following with your gaze but not physically
And although I was no longer tense
I was left with a feeling of impotence
That I had let you intimidate me
Assertive yet diplomatic creature
Your beautiful coat and unique features
Your stinging dismissal with a yawn

I looked for you daily on my walk from the train
And I saw you now and again
Hunting by yourself or with your vixen
Hunting the poor voles to extinction

Tipped by coworkers, I’d give pursuit
With my camera, and sometimes get a shot
Though you would escape as often as not
There was the time you turned by the tracks
(You took some steps forward, I took a few back)
While from the sky fell the first flakes of snow

You in the meadow with your nose
Furtively searching for rodent prey
Native Americans and others say
Your meaning is of focus and purpose
A sign one is going the right way
People say your fur is gorgeous
And I must agree

In winter I never saw you, though
Your footprints in the snow
Crisscrossed back and forth over the tracks
Where the trains go so fast

I feared for your safety
As you continued relentlessly
To provide for your new family
Who waited underground for spring

After the snow melted
Reports came to me of your kits at play
In the grass between the warehouses
But I never saw them and was later dismayed
As I walked to work from the morning train
On a cold and rainy day in May
To find that as across the road you strayed
By some speeding vehicle you had been slain

You were indeed completely flattened
With one forlorn ear still raised
On the edge of your remains
I recognized you by the pattern
Of black spots on your pelt
Still visible even though
You looked much more
Like a rug than a fox

I felt sorry you were gone
Your surprise demise
Seemed, to me, wrong
And unfair as this world
As much yours as mine
That you should go while I remain

As I passed you, day by day
And you slowly melted away
I continued with my own life
There being nothing else I could do
Certainly nothing I could do for you

In this state
Your body was an effective prompt
To always look both ways
And avoid impromptu crossings of highways

Yours was a life in focus
An example shown us
Serving to educate
Of acceptance of responsibility
And devotion to family
One can only admire
And could do worse than aspire
To emulate

My friend and coworker, David, brought back reports of seeing a fox on the walk he took daily at lunch time. Stories from other coworkers came of cornered foxes attacking people in their gardens a few towns away. There was a sense of danger that some took seriously and others laughed off.

I was very curious. I had seen small canine tracks all winter and a marked decrease in rabbit tracks. It occurred to me that I had not seen any bunnies in a while. Not long after that, as the leaves were turning to the vivid colors of autumn, the fox in the above poem intercepted me and seemed to escort me from the premises in a firm but reasonably courteous manner.

Searching online, I learned the foxes dig dens in which to pass the winter and birth their young. I thought that my fox was probably looking for a place to dig such a den when we had our encounter, but I read that it is the vixens who dig the dens whereas my antagonist was a male.

After our encounter, I saw the fox again several times at a more comfortable distance and had the opportunity to take the photos you see here.

It was no challenge to take the photo of the last bit of the fox’s pelt that remained for weeks after the rest of him was gone.

All that was left of the Fox.
All that was left of the Fox. | Source


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    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom rubenoff 

      5 years ago from United States

      Thank you, FlourishAnyway. The 'civilized' world is tough on wildlife, that's for sure.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      Poignant tribute to an amazing creature just going about his business and doing "fox" things -- providing for his family, living, and unfortunately meeting his tragic end. Very nice poem. Voted up and more. Sharing.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom rubenoff 

      7 years ago from United States

      I'm glad you liked it. I love nature, too, and am always thrilled to observe animals as they go about their business. Thanks so much.

    • PADDYBOY60 profile image


      7 years ago from Centreville Michigan

      This was a nice tribute, to a creature that I admire so much. I am among other things, a naturalist. When I am out and about studying nature, I have had the good luck of observing these creatures. They are usually very timid but curious. The pictures were fantastic. Well done Sir.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom rubenoff 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thanks so much, Storyteller, though I was just being honest. Being pushed around by a forty pound adversary is humbling. :)

    • Storytellersrus profile image


      7 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      I was left with a feeling of impotence

      that I had let you intimidate me.

      This is a brilliant line. Thanks, Tom!

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom rubenoff 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thank you, Robie :)

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 

      7 years ago from Central New Jersey

      a wonderful tribute to nature, foxes, life and death--deftly done and beautifully rendered. Thanks Tom--great work.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom rubenoff 

      7 years ago from United States

      They live a short, determined, hungry life. I am sorry his ended so abruptly.

    • Truckstop Sally profile image

      Truckstop Sally 

      7 years ago

      I'm choosing to believe that the fox is not represented in the last pic . . . but instead a man-made mess of some sort.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom rubenoff 

      7 years ago from United States

      Foxes go where there is food. After they razed most of the industrial park where I work, they ran out of money and the bulldozed earth just sat, growing weeds. There was an explosion of voles and mice, followed by the appearance of the fox and his family. The industrial park abuts a small wildlife reservation, so there is an extended range to hunt.

      Since the fox's death, I have seen one of his kits, now an adolescent fox, crossing the tracks at the station. I hope he's more careful than his dad. Thank you, Ruby!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      7 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I certainly enjoyed this and was saddened when the Fox was killed. I feel the same each time i see a Deer dead on the highway. Seems we have taken over so much of their wooded area, they have no place to run. Thank you..

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom rubenoff 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thank you, Jerilee. It's nice to think of someone saving my poem for later.

      Where I grew up there were a lot of black bears, Randy, but unlike mountain lions, they don't really look at humans necessarily as a possible food source, usually. And thank you for the great opportunity to make a 'cougar' joke. :)

      Thanks, JK! Thoreau is a personal hero.

    • juneaukid profile image

      Richard Francis Fleck 

      7 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Thank you very much for this Thoreauvian piece of inter-relatedness.

    • Randy Behavior profile image

      Randy Behavior 

      7 years ago from Near the Ocean

      Enchanting! Living rurally I've given foxes little thought; now mountain lions, they get my attention!

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 

      7 years ago from United States

      Absolutely top notch! Going to save this poem to think about for some time.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom rubenoff 

      7 years ago from United States

      Wild animals have an advantage. :)

      Thank you, Frieda

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 

      7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Just fabulous. In Colorado we see lots of foxes near the bottom part of pikes peak. There is one that has a den just to the right of our cabin by the gravel road. We see her (or him) and watch with awe. Usually the fox is much too sneaky for us to get a very good look. This brought back many summer memories.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom rubenoff 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thank you, poet Saddlerider, for your generous praise. I was perhaps more his friend than he was mine, as I had more time to admire whereas his attention was always fully on the survival of his family. I am happy that I have seen at least one of his kits since.

    • saddlerider1 profile image


      7 years ago

      What a wonderful tribute to a friend, be it a fox on the run who found his fate under the tires of quite possibly a big one, maybe a semi or some other one.

      Stalking was fun with a little worry I'm sure by the both of you talking to each other under the shadows of the sun. His beautiful coat was not meant to disappear under black top and that's often the case and fear with road kill.

      The pictures are fantastic and you wrote so well of your adventure with the red fox laid to rest on the grave yard we call highway. I really enjoyed this scribe Tom, you captured my full attention like a great Poet can.

      Your imagery was stark and I was enthralled by the story you weaved so beautifully in your verse. Bravo, I salute you sir.


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