Burnt Ochre Battalions — Chapter One

burnt-ochre-batallions-cover

The colour called burnt ochre seeps though the leaves
of a tree festooned with umbrage jackdaws took.
Assembled skunks vote Less Reality
but to no avail. We’re post democracy.

A brighter note: on this farm near Alhaurin
a chimpanzee has succeeded teaching me
their language. I have learned that the sounds they make
mean, if anything, additional punctuation
to their sentences that they share by beaming light
from their eyes and even directly from their minds.

‘Telepathy,’ I marvel. She replies,
‘Hallelujah, I wasn’t sure that it would work:
my years devoted to find one sentient human.
We had suspected what your kind does might be thinking
but while you, all of you, effectively stayed dumb
my colleagues thought I chased a Fata Morgana.’

She beamed to me an image: ‘Look, banana.’
She beamed, ‘It’s yours if you “say” more words.’
I tried and tired. She smiled, her massive teeth
encouraged me enough to try to flee.
Which didn’t work. It never did. She’s faster.
Moreover, for her strength I’m a pushover.

I tried to beam, and suddenly a ‘Help’
escaped my cranium. She leapt and smiled.

‘I’ll tell the world humans cán speak,’ she beamed. She looked strong.
Then she started crying. I beamed her, ‘What’s wrong?’

She and I both noticed that I had made
my first beaming sentence. We exchanged high fives.
Jackdaws in the ochre tree outside
whooped with laughter at our simian display
and chivvied the skunks for wanting to go home.

The chimpanzee beamed – communication was getting easy –
that humans had one strength her species lacked.
‘I can’t tell my world,’ she confided. ‘We can’t write.
I would have to see every living member of my kind
to share with them my world-beating new discovery
that humans, at least one, can talk and think.’

In Alhaurin all that day and into the evening
she, strong beamer, and I, a scrivener, spanned
the pillars of our cross-species conversation
with lists of our respective strengths and weaknesses
and by teatime we had hatched a wondrous plan.

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