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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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PHILLIS WHEATLEY: 1753-1784

Enslaved in the Gambia or Senegal,

scholars surmise, she survived the nauseous

and violent bottom line of the

Triangular Trade to be bought aged eight

as a maid for his wife by John Wheatley,

merchant and tailor of British-ruled Boston,

a known progressive in education.

 

She was christened ‘Phillis’ after the slave ship

that took her childhood. She was prodigious,

and was removed from domestic duties.

Tutored by his daughter, at twelve she knew

Latin,

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THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter – tale

of adultery and obsession –

was published in 1850. In the year

the Crimean War began, he became

the U.S. Consul in Liverpool,

a post gifted by his friend the President.

He did not like the job despite the fees

from the cargoes of cotton and molasses

hoisted ashore. Whether in a Hansom cab

home to his family in lodgings in the town,

on the steam ferry to the rented villa

in the gated park on the Wirral,

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THE SORES OF WAR

‘…sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments…’ TWEET, President Trump

 

In a letter to the New York Times three years

before the war, General Robert E. Lee

described slavery per se as ‘a moral

and political evil’ and, in the States,

‘a greater evil to the white man’

than the black. In 1857 Lee

had been his father-in-law’s executor.

George Custis had manumitted his slaves

on his death bed there and then but ‘no white man

was in the room’.

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THE COLSTON BUN

‘And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.’ DEUTERONOMY 12.3

‘Black deaths do not have a good press, especially when they occur in the custody of our custodians. The media leads the public to believe that our guardians can do no wrong. Racism leads them to believe that blacks can do no right. The silence of the custodial system is compounded by the silences of racism.’ DEADLY SILENCE: BLACK DEATHS IN CUSTODY,

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