New Year, New Poem

Porcupine

A still night

lit by paraffin and candle and camp fire.

An intimate pause with strangers

over white table cloths

in a clearing among trees next to the banks of a river.

We took our seats at table

so far from the north of England.

The fire red-licked our wine glasses and

painted red the artichokes

put before us by thin smiling men

with gilded skin.

We were deep in Kenyan countryside and there were artichokes

for supper.

The newly weds shrank into panicked whisper,

picked up their knives and forks and

put them down again.

Flashes of red vitriol flicked across the table.

It’s not the honeymoon she’d wanted:

it’s mud and monkeys

which sit on the concrete walls of the bathroom

and watch her naked with small black eyes

and steal her things

and laugh at her bareness

and just a man with a bow and arrow

between them and the jaws of an alligator

and unidentifiable insects floating,

decomposing in the pool:

insects with blue bodies, the size of birds.

And a bird the size of a goat

which clacks and pecks at her bed through the tent canvas.

And now something on her plate

which she doesn’t know what to do with.

I took some butter and let it slide down the sides

of my artichoke,

let it pool between the leaves

before I pulled the first leaf and scraped off its metallic flesh

quickly getting to the pale thin-silk leaves

and then to its core,

to its throat spearing choke.

I cut it away,

its shorn filaments pustule-dotted like the head of a sunflower.

And then they came,

the porcupines,

their bristles clicking like heels on parquet.

Three then four

and a small one

rooting, snuffling into the red Kenyan earth.

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2 Comments

Filed under poems, poetry, writing

2 responses to “New Year, New Poem

  1. What is the inspiration or backstory on the poem? It definitely sounds like a story here! So intriguing–porcupines and artichokes

  2. My mother and I had a holiday to Kenya donkey’s years ago and we really did eat artichokes in the middle of nowhere with a family of porcupines for company. I’ve been writing a series of poems about Kenya (most still in first draft and very rough stage) and I remembered about the artichokes…it tickled me that they were both prickly! And there was a terrified newly-wed couple who would’ve been much happier in Majorca….Mum had once had an offer to go and live in Nairobi with someone, a lecturer at the University, and I think she wanted to go and see what she’d missed. Crikey, I think I’ve just hit on something!! Thanks for your comments, Cricketmuse…I love hearing from you!

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