Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Night Keeper

Hunger transfigured you, reduced
you to your own bleak wraith. It animalised
the pious among us, and enflamed
savagery in the worst. My stomach
would wake you with aggrieved whale-song.

The night-keeper, for a cut, neglected
the main gate and we stole in,
secreting honed implements. Which cage
first? you urged: I poised the skeleton-
key, like the tuning-fork of our greed.

But Claude the historian clamped
my shoulder. Famished souls, granted
release and meat, have sometimes failed
to survive their too-eager wolfing. The
irony! he simpered, unhinged from his fast.

So we launched off small, in the Rodent
House, doing as the Romans
did, with raw dormice and gerbils as toothsome
amuse-bouches. Relief and revulsion
conjoined in unanimous tears.

As Victor the arsonist stoked
litter-bin braziers, we delved for bulkier
appetisers: you potted a brace
of dreaming marmoset, I bagged
an iguana and several boomslangs
braceleting my wrist in the dark.

Skinned and skewered by Camille
the butcher, they fattened the ranks
of coypu and wallaby, ibis
and ibex, already sizzling on spits,
wafting their symphony of odours...

We siezed on the flesh like hyenas,
rending hanks to gorge. But these were mere
hors-d’oeuvres: the orgy magnified
as night staggered on and locals thronged,
woken from meat-dreams by the reek of meat.

If hunger’s a delirium, so too
is sudden satiety after famine:
you giggle tipsily, hardly
crediting how sublime an underdone
tapir’s haunch can taste, or the devilled brain
of a sloth. But more and more citizens
clamoured in, lusting for a bite,

and more and more creatures fell victim:
I recall a mob with ropes and hatchets
felling the giraffes like a teetering pine-grove;

a clan of Congolese mountaineering
up an elephant to dismantle it
with their machetes, children darting
inside its gouged abdomen
to hack out the heart and viscera.

Devouring that still-pulsing bellows
of blood, they believe they inherit
the elephant’s soul, his vital animus.

Coming round next morning, sprawled
in the stable of what were probably
moose, the soul of every beast I consumed
bore down on me, their every essence
possessing my body, pleading their unsaid
grace. As deathly heartburn
assailed me you stumbled in, horror-struck:

‘The night-keeper tricked us – he eats
no meat. He’s locked us up inside the zoo.’

Footnote: “He stumbled into a city that was starving to death – the people had even been reduced to eating the animals in the zoo” Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel, Edmund White.

(First published in Long Poem Magazine 7)

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Haunted Weather

Best known for their emasculatingly satiric remoulding of 'Money (That's What I Want)' and subsequently written-off as what Dave Lee Travis used to call a 'one hit wonder', The Flying Lizards actually numbered as a member the seminal musicological theorist David Toop, a fascinating reflective monograph of whom- written by the excellent Simon Reynolds - may be read in the just-passed April edition of The Wire. This bass-driven tune proves that The Flying Lizards were more than just a post-modern frippery.