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THE LAST TASMANIAN TIGER….

…though striped in part was not, in fact, a tiger,

or feline in any way, but related

to the kangaroo, so a marsupial,

with a head and muzzle a bit like a bear’s,

and the dimensions of an Alsatian dog.

Somebody named him Benjamin – a joke

probably: the last of Jacob’s sons,

and Israel’s progenitor. Some footage

survives, in black and white, of the animal

in his small, bleak cage in Hobart Zoo.

The newsreel’s pompous and slightly smarmy

voice-over,

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THE GREAT UNCONFORMITY

A couple of weeks into the Great Lockdown –

robins nesting in the ivy, wild bees

in the eaves, as usual – we were

visited one day by a carrion crow,

its feathers of a blackness beyond

perfection, clinkered armour buffed bright.

It landed, the size of a large cat,

on our modest bird bath beside the lilies

beginning to burgeon. In its beak

was a portion-sized piece of baguette

or ciabatta, which it dropped in the water,

then flew off.

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WHAT THE HEART REMEMBERS

A young girl is reading in a white armchair.

On the crimson tablecloth is a pink rose

in a glass of water. (She has kept the bloom

from when she was weaving flowers – its petals

superfluous to her design). The book

she is reading she first read three years ago,

when she was seven: its themes – of childhood,

and alchemy, and unambiguous frontiers

only beyond which evil thrives – enclose like

the high arms of her chair, though she is tall,

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THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS: WINDOWS OF DISCOURSE

‘The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum—even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate’. THE COMMON GOOD, Noam Chomsky

 

A dormouse, leaping into a boiling cauldron,

leaps out, protesting. Some others, resting,

with breathing apparatus, trustingly

at the bottom of a pot of water

arctic-cold,

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ALPHABET

On the south west coast of the peninsula,

among Mount Sinai’s arid sandstone foothills,

beneath the stoops of falcons and the gyres

of eagles, where quail and grouse migrate,

and ibex graze on sparse thorn bushes,

where Moses might have berated the Twelve Tribes,

near the temple ruins of Hathor, goddess

of fertility and a golden calf,

are the rubbled remains of turquoise mines.

 

The Pharaohs prized the stones bluer than skies.

Canaanite prisoners of war worked the seams –

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A SORT OF EDEN

“Did you not hear me ask Sir Thomas about the slave trade last night?…There was such a dead silence.”

MANSFIELD PARK,  Jane Austen

 

It is fitting in certain English novels

that there should be significant absences

in Bath or London, journeys of consequence

to the colonies, and banishments

to darkest Dorset or a coastal town.

It is appropriate too that there should be

rain of whatever kind falling frequently,

forcing protagonists and antagonists

to be housebound, introspective,

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