Swamp Stoat

[This is an experimental, 100-lines-so-far beginning of something: fantasy? mythology? ecology? fable? animal story?]

Squirrels of mercy, vagrant eagles,
and a swamp god’s left-out stoat
share a moment of communion
drawing straws for Joseph’s coat.

Vibrant, bleach-proof lurid colours
draw the vagrant eagles’ gaze.
This allows the swamp god’s stoat to
steal a march and lease a maze

that it bids the squirrels to enter.
Oozing mercy they comply.
Up start eagles. Down-filled fissures
in the mazes’ duckboards try

to mislead the squirrels of mercy
delving deeper in the maze
of amazing grates of hearsay
and of other dubious ways.

Snapping from their hue-dazed centre
the eagles charge into the sky.
Gyring higher, their wings flail
the frozen paths where jet planes fly.

Soaring raptors riding updrafts,
flaring feathers of their tails
shred off fragments of the contrails
lucid diamonds in the sky.

Up start eagles. Down-filled fissures
in the duckboards of the maze
whisper clues devoid of meaning
to the squirrels whose feats amaze

the fishes, sloths and teddies sluicing
on the maze’s Escher side,
in dimensions no deducing
can make real. Illusions glide

up the nostrils of the lost.
They begin hallucinating
that the no-name goat is host
to a mage elucidating

why and how the ways though many
keep reducing when they’re measured
till what’s left is less than any
chance for exit though that’s treasured.

Greedy eagles flail at contrails,
lucid diamonds in the sky.
Peering down they plot the faint trails
through the veiled maze as squirrels try

to elicit Lucy’s meaning
if there was one. Failing there
the squirrels seek exits from the leaning
maze wall of the swamp stoat’s lair.

The swamp stoat, laird of maze and hirer
of successes to the needy,
cannot tolerate the slyer
vagrant eagles turning greedy.

Greedy eagles savour stoat stew.
That’s a fact the swamp stoat heard
often, when small, from his mother.
Grown up, he’d thought that absurd.

But, he thinks, since they are vagrant,
forever gyring with no home,
will these raptors find him fragrant?
Frightening vicious spectres roam

in what stoats presume is thinking.
the stoat enters the maze himself.
Through the maze mist he sees blinking
mercy candles on a shelf,

and vicious fishes, and torn teddies
from an office Christmas fete,
and a sloth that’s never ready.
These are the things that congregate

in the centre where the maze is
often entered, seldom left.
That’s to say, the part where daisies
grow amok and green, bereft

first of mercy, then direction.
Fishes, teddies, and sloth tarry
there awaiting benediction
or some happy chance to marry

up with guiding lights who’ll lead them
to the maze’s outer edge,
failing that, to guides who’ll feed them
during their stumbling through the hedge

that surrounds the maze’s centre.
The hedge blocks progress, makes them lame.
Then they meet the stoat’s dissenter:
it’s the goat without a name.

How to hail this holy goat?
She’s a ewe, perhaps a granny.
Trying for a cheery note,
the sloth stage-whispers, slowly, ‘Nanny’.

[I need to add more here, the goat being a false ‘prophet, profit’.]

Chinless, pretty like a sea lion
although fishes beg to differ
approaches from the maze’s tree line
the esteemed solution giver.

Neither mercy squirrel nor eagle
nor a sloth nor stoat nor even
Spot, the first grade’s favourite beagle,
it’s the orca Splendid Steven.

Steven steals a march and razes
the maze walls. The creatures roam
free of where the sly stoat hazes.
Even the eagles find a home.

The Ark of Noah

The Ark of Noah saves us from the flood
of death brought to the Earth by our sort’s rise.
In each part of the planet where life stood
till we arrived, we’ve ushered in demise

of all the native creatures large and small
that we could catch. That’s sadly nearly all.

We humans torched Australia where we slew
the diprotodon, the giant kangaroo,
birds big as houses, wombats tall as me,
the marsupial lion, and every sort of tree

that fire brought low. We helped the eucalyptus
out of ignorance. Not much of nature likes us.

I could go on. We think we can go on
in our ark that sails the dying seas. How long?

The Secret Garden’s Secret

The secret garden’s secret is it’s dying.
More actively: we mortals take its life.
Not all of us. Some gardeners work hard trying
to block, with shovel, hoe, and pruning knife,
the money floods we other folk let loose
to flow like black gold over garden walls.
We show great interest in attempts to sluice
the topsoil’s gold we cart in carryalls
to fertilise our fantasy we’re gods
and need no roots, or none that we can’t make.
We modern humans, jumped-up amphipods,
pretend we don’t need wildlife, and we stake
all species’ fate in underfunded schools
that clap for gardeners but can’t buy them tools.

Closed System

We live and breathe inside our gunnysack.
A fusion lamp illuminates our days.
It hides at night behind a paper moon.
Plants grow in our rich loam. Sometimes we’re happy.
A lifetime of denial leads downhill.
Our young at heart live like they were immortal.
They look away when we are eating dirt.

I sing of birds, remembering how they looked.
I might as well be whistling. Memories mix me
a toxic cocktail topped up with regret.
We need palliative care. Caretakers turn their backs.
They turn their minds, pretending they are good,
into echo chambers. They hear what they shout.
On the verge of morning, diving boards collapse.

International Trophy Hunt, Shangri-La

C’est un acteur usé,’ says rich old Ron.
Or might have said. His paunch shakes and he mumbles.
He leans against his guides. Then, winded, wan
and sick from altitude, Ron turns and stumbles
the path down to the village he has hired
as base camp for the party he has fixed
to celebrate his prowess. Those who’ve squired
him up the hill, and watched him wound the ibex,
will spend tomorrow searching for the beast.
Ron shot it in the stomach. Shooting stars
attend the dying ibex, leaking yeast
from guts gashed by Ron’s dumdums. Any scars
will not get time to form. While Ron’s in bed
his guides will shoot the ibex in the head.

Published in SOMETIMES IN BALANCE