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
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,
their bristles clicking like heels on parquet.
Three then four
and a small one
rooting, snuffling into the red Kenyan earth.