All March practising marksmanship,
the plink of lead pellets
against the upturned wheel barrow:
The target’s bruised centre,
the barrow dimpled by spent pellets –
shining catastrophes flat against its steel.
Seen though cross hairs
April is precision greens and browns,
all the wind blow and flagging skies
reduced to one intersection,
a thin black centre.
I am ready for May.
Morning pigeon sagging the branches, come
to eat my apple buds, greengage blossom,
delicious pips of September’s plums.
Fetch my gun!
Standing to bring one down,
the shuttlecock clatter of pigeon feathers
and its dumb soul leathering the road.
Loot in that vertical tumble,
Loot, and meat and justice for the empire:
a thief dead, a lesson told.
Taking a club I climb our fence to pick the pigeon,
knock its head for mercy and carry it home, the beak beading blood,
lay it down on the lichen of our garden table and pluck its feathers
snuffing the warmth in them, the down tearing on departure –
just a whisper of wind and they fan away.
Out of its slit gullet springs torn leaf and green stuffing.
Next, my knife pares the breast and
I bring the purple meat away dry, scented iron.
The bird’s carcass is thrown away, the vittels added to our larder –
these minor killings and field surgeries impress our power upon this country.
Mice, meekly protesting, the puppy swallows whole,
frogs we escort off the premises, earth worms are recaptured and stored away,
magpies we shake our fists at and long to waterboard.
But song birds we cherish, fondly we celebrate the goldfinch’s gay tunic,
our loping woodpecker’s patrols. We are no rabble – this is a civilised organisation.