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Sam Riviere

The pelicans in St James’ Park are eating pigeons

whole. Perhaps there’s a casual, regal cruelty at work,

or they’re doing it because they can. Whatever.

All you’ll find in their expressions,

if you’d call them expressions,

is the old lie of animal wisdom, that dinosaur clever.


And the pigeons - do they know it

as they’re packed down the pink flower-flute,

the yawning, purpled spout folding feathers,

snapping wings, bird-bone, bird-skull?

Something’s clasped by the curled claws

sticking from a jumping gullet - a symptom


invited from the ragged edges of our vision,

a fever-beat upon the brain, the dumpety-dum

of new diseases dancing in the sun. Days of doubletaking.

We notice, not for the first time, the shoulders of statues

are dappled with crap. Our own shoulders, too.


As ever, the birds eat, shit, turn. But their eyes

seem shifty now, their persecuting cries announce

a moment’s gone, nothing new’s arrived.


From The Rialto No 66 (Spring 2009)