Hardly bellbirds in a forest,
these bleepers on the ward,
to be ignored or listened for,
a panoply of signs,
a layer from the Tower of Babel.
You’d planned for Miles’s Kind of Blue
or Coltrane’s Love Supreme,
some valkyries from Wagner maybe
or Mahler’s Tenth again.
Despite the wiles of Spotify
statistics say it’s probable
the last thing you will hear on earth
will be a tutti of the bleepers
as all the saintly analgesics
lift you free of pain.
Ah, how justice
those nostrils in Jane Austen’s gardens
declining to inhale the sweat;
the ears that never quite would hear
the sound of leather cutting flesh.
Their manners were impeccable;
their marriages well-planned.
So too the twenty million pounds
the government paid out
to all who’d owned a human.
Had not two handy millionaires
rustled up the loan
the Act of 1833
might still be in committee.
The best part of two hundred years
went by till its acquittal
and all the drawing rooms of England
sailed like cruise ships down the years
with justice in their wake.
In Praise of Crows and Ravens
Let’s not fuss about the difference;
the crow with its insistent
aarhk, aarhk, aarhk, aarhk,
the raven with its aaarhk, aaarhk, aaaaaarhk,
that final fall in pitch.
A crow eats almost anything
except the cane toad’s sac.
Although they’re not too flash at courting
they mainly mate for life …
and have a lengthy recall for
both blessings and resentment, a feel
for reciprocity as well;
small trinkets may repay a kindness.
They have a special touch with tools
and drop crustaceans on to rocks.
Tribes across the continent
observed their trickery and guile.
The Pitjantjantjara, for example,
call them wati kaanka,
a dodgy type who hangs about,
but certain moieties, it seems,
are proud to wear the name.
Our curving streets and tasty trash
might seem designed for them.
They’re up there near the top
of least endangered species.
Starting from Gondwanaland
thirty million years ago,
they’ll still be here to see us off,
perhaps a little sadly, with
a valedictory aarhk.