Weekend Poetry: Birdcatchers, and Other Poems

Birdcatchers

The trawler tows raised nets floating across the sky

       to snare herring gulls, guillemots, puffins, gannets.

If enough of the fish-eaters were caught

       they would hoist the boat out of the wounded waves

with their flocked strength. Her captain is bald

       his face as tanned as cowhide, and feels life has no surprises

for him now; any tragedy creeping forward is the sort

       he expects: a freak wave as tall as the Ark Royal

the great white leaping over his boat to snap clear off

       his head/torso, the mountainous iceberg enduring

to the equator and probing the tropics just for him.

       Sometimes when the weather is still, he dreams of the years

as a boy when he yearned to invent a bike

       he could ride over the hilly waves and be crowned laureate

of the Tour de Caspian. A dozen cormorants

       could have been trained to haul him from the Canaries

to the comradely Soviet sea. Whenever he drifts

       near home he scans the horizon for the dragon tree

by his village, contorted like a Godzilla of a bonsai

       pointing the many ways it sprouted  

to chase birds itself, not trusting them to alight

       of their own accord- not seabirds, not without

fish-heads spilling from the kernels of its fruit.

 

Wall

Here’s in the square the barber can scissor under shade.

He snips the boy’s hair facing the wall pocked by bullets,

specked by blood. Scorched umber mottling stains the wall,

 

till next it rains. The boy’s hair falls in little clumps

of black cloud on the backs of scrabbling ants. Sweating

candle stubs and wilted flowers rim the wall’s base

 

where last All Souls Day stood skulls weaved from bleached

carcasses of fowl, polished chestnuts for eyeballs – AMOR

spelt across the forehead in twisted wishbone pieces.

 

The army hasn’t soldiered through town for weeks.

No widows have been recently made. The boy’s brain

melds a menagerie of shapes from the patterns of bullets

 

and blood on the wall: a vulture spreads its wings

to flee a viper’s uncoiling interest; a jaguar licks its chops

as it pounces on a peccary.  So much swift death on this wall.

 

 

Matador

The rain makes a prison of everywhere;

a million denizens in their apartment cells,

tram cars, taxis, staring out beyond

the beaded bars of misty windows.

 

Behind one glass pane is a white cockatoo

with a rainbow crest and a man who dresses

as a matador. He could be a matador.

He at least identifies as a matador

 

but his only sword is invisible and he spills

invisible blood, spring-like, from the jugulars

of invisible bulls, miniature bulls, not as small

as sheep or swine but smaller than the Irish

 

Moiled his father raised for beef, and more agile

with showy, bowy horns as pointed as a mother’s tongue.

Often his bedroom floor is tidal with blood.

The neighbours would complain about the swells

 

of blood, sopping down their walls

on a rainy day; they would whine, whinge

were it not as invisible as it is unstenching  

as the corpuscles wither and congeal

 

way after the silent noise of the clattering hooves

charging across their ceiling, and the silent booms

from the silent battering his walls endure during

the course of his battles. Nobody ever sees him



in his suit of lights with its sequins and threads

of gold and silver, yet it does saturate with sweat

and appears sometimes amidst the towels

and grey slacks, the white vests and blue shirts

 

surrendering to the wind on the rooftop

clothesline . He’s convinced the cockatoo

in her cage hears and sees everything.

She squawks at all the right moments.

 

Mink

The woman who loved to wear live mink

insisted at first on having their teeth

pulled, but this just led to slobber

 

all over her lamé Givenchy, so instead

she went with anaesthesia and they curled

her neck with open glistening eyes and teeth

 

bared as viciously as her own when affronted

by fur objectors. “It’s alive!” she’d hiss,

“Leave me alone. Leave one outpost of haut style

 

survive on this lithe neck.” A P.A. followed

with a diamond-studded, patent-leather

crate to put the mink in when everybody

 

including the mink, was tired. Once one

revived prematurely over a bowl of Tuscan

hare stew, truffles lending a piquant aroma

 

to the prosecco-marinated flesh. With

a graceless drunken lunge it snaffled

the hostess’s sapphire-encrusted peacock

 

brooch right off her breast and was fed

in turn, brooch, fur, teeth and all, to the same

greyhounds which had coursed and killed the hare.

 

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