Poetry

Jaguar XJ

Body a cigar

gliding through hills,

it has something of the fox

and of the cat—

discreet and russet,

an outsider lying low,

named after an African animal

by a former colonial power.

Beneath the long bonnet

a snake pit of hoses

given to hissing

on hot summer days,

the interior a frayed glove

with leather seats well-thumbed

and smelling of neglected libraries,

dash of walnut sans airbag

holding a kernel of the old country.

Like any feline it is a predator

best kept in at night,

the wide stance of its carbon paw print

making it the natural enemy

of the natural world.

Yet it has a memory of northern forests,

yearnings to search out old shires.

You can imagine a fondness

for Keats and Ted Hughes,

scarlet runners and poached artichokes,

pre-glasnost maps of Europe.

It watches repeats of The Avengers on pay TV,

a cashmere rug thrown over its boot,

votes radical Tory and dreams of being driven

by Roger Moore. It thinks Miles Davis

should have stayed away from keyboards.

It calculates in imperial.

In Melbourne’s fist of traffic

it is outmanoeuvred by SUVs,

shrugged off by tinny Korean hatchbacks.

Turning the wheel to lock

earns a whine of protest

from the wide circle of its heart.

But on this blonded peninsula,

Sheffield six cylinders purring,

it leans into the road,

aged athlete loping gracefully,

hoovering past thin pastures, a cattle yard,

manure at 50 cents a bag.

As an Anglophile fog unfurls

across drought-stripped paddocks,

cells of coastal cancer are dividing

on Jaguar skin.

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