Das ist der doux commerce! – Karl Marx


Ay de mi – a pin-

prick of blood, scarcely

more than a pore

flaunting its friendship

with a vein; bright

as the flower

of the flame tree that stained

our drive, our lawn, and the roof

and bonnet of our white

Ford Taunus

red … in piercing, heat-

hazed dreams Tina

the Turkey, fattening for Christmas in the dust

of Kano, interrupts

her pecking to fix

me with a beady eye, to puff

her breast and shake

at me her scarlet

beak and wattles. ‘The worse

it is, the better,’ she cluck-clucks, sotto

voce, from somewhere


inside the labyrinth

of my skull: ‘On all

fours enter my unhappy coop, and lend

an ear: prolonged

and torrential storms will erode

the dirt I’m scratching in; the hand

that hurls the grain, and wields

the cleaver, and the rattan

carpet-beater, will change

before your eyes into a curved

and scaly

claw … Weep

with me for the doomed, for all short-winged

flightless birds, for the many

stragglers that the swirling waters

will pursue, and overwhelm … As I know

you know, beyond

this paling

scheming irregulars in tattered

fatigues prowl through the night, or gather

in clearings; crackle –

crackle – crackle – whoooosh! – the roar

of the flames from their bush-fires

makes the roots

of my feathers shiver


and tingle … Should you

like a fool venture forth, beware of the pitter

and the patter of overgrown children

scurrying for cover, themselves

fully-fledged, and resourceful


catchers; and while I

scratch for fleas, and gobble

and gabble, can’t

you hear the shrieking of anxious

and bewildered parakeets – here I am, oh,

oh, here I am! – in flight from the noise

and the smoke, their cries

putting words in your mouth, oh here –

here I am – send me! … How

far these far-

fetched facts must travel before

they buckle and fall, and how

s-s-s-softly they dissolve

in the wind … the wind, ah oui, le vent

se lève, and en garde –

en garde, my friend, for I see

you mean to pluck each speckled plume

from this heaving breast, to skewer

and season

and devour me … welladay, or rather

whoops! – for it appears

that one of these

rogue talons

has flashed towards the cornea

of your left eye, and nicked it,

so, and now

the right: and hence

our heart-to-heart, our sweet

sweet commerce is breaking

into a chaos of flame-

coloured filaments

hovering, and sinking

like fireflies, and the rat-


of rain

on corrugated iron …’