THE SMILE (by James Munro)

I saw an eagle sail across the city,
I saw a whale surface out at sea,
I saw a scorpion run across a sand dune,
Saw Aisha turn and smile at me.

The eagle sailed on and out of sight,
The whale sank back down into the sea,
The scorpion disappeared among the sand dunes,
Aisha smiled and turned away from me.


COUNTRY VISIT (by James Munro)

Lady, lady
down from town
in silver slippers
silken gown

Silver armlet
silken hair
sunshine, laughter
country air

Ducks and ducklings
trees in bud
cows all gazing
chewing cud

(Muddy puddles
buzzing dung
porkers squealing
pullets strung

Mud, and blood
in the yard
metal cold
stone hard)

Lady, lady
on the lawn
shown the pond
the frogs, the spawn

Strolling barefoot
leggy, slender
nails gleaming
lips tender

Laughing, posing
in the sun –
Topless? Shall I?
Just for fun?

(Mud, blood
blood and mud
one castrated
one at stud

Mud and blood
ducklings dying
blood flowing
feathers flying)

Lady, lady
come and dine
there’s sucking pig
and coq-au-vin

(Swollen turkeys
gravid sows
placid capons
fecund cows)

There’s duck à l’orange
côte de veau
cut it, watch
the juices flow

But it’s so lean! –
a little laugh –
you haven’t killed
the fatted calf!

slatted floors
leggy, tender
veal like yours)

Lady, lady
never fall
stay as you are
change not at all

In silver slippers
silken gown
lady, lady
return to town

Go gaily down
the leafy lane
see the breeze-blocks
not the pain

See the hedges
see the gate
but not the steel
don’t feel the hate

Lady, lady
fare you well
angels have nothing
to do with hell

Mud and sunshine
sun and mud
the passage of beauty
the letting of blood


AMONG THE POETS (by James Munro)

To George Barker

Among the poets
revolving in the battery
grabbing frantic pecks of
food as they passed the hoppers
was one particularly battered specimen
that had managed not only to rub off most of its feathers
but somehow to half skin itself as well,
and it drooped as it stood there on matchstick legs
going round
and round
and round and round and round,
and round,
and round and round,
its raw little elbow wings a joke –
it knew,
you could tell by the look in its eye.

And on the rack in front of it lay
a large brown poem.

They only kept it out of sentiment of course:
all the others produced well-written eggs.

THE WILLY-Bs (by James Munro)

One should clearly keep clones caged. Not easy to say.
Not easy to do. They have a way of growing up,
becoming indistinguishable from oneself
at that age. Which of course is their point. You may

love them. Don’t. If you give them an hour, they’ll take over
your life. It won’t be just your heart, your eyes,
your hips that will be replaced. It will be you.

Temper mercy with sense. It was not as replacements
that they were created, brought into the world,
it was as spare parts. Parts. To be used as needed.

But will they understand that? WillyB-3 is
resentful still about his eye. His eye,
I ask you. I said, Willy, it was never your eye,
it is my eye; that eye you still have
is my eye: you are all me, all mine.

WillyB-4, who is minus most of his teeth
from my dental op and can’t talk properly –
and will probably provide me with my new liver
which will be the end of him, said – “I shink Mary’sh
right.” “Mary?” “Mary. She shaysh we are
people, shame ash her, shame ash you.”

“Listen, Willy. You know you are not people.
You have no name, no parents, no passport,
all you have is the codeword WillyB
linking you to me, and a number, you are
a clone, my fourth, like WillyB-1 and WillyB-
2 were, and these others are. That liver
is as much part of my body as this liver here is,
the body you think of as yours is as much
my body as this one I am at present using.

“What will happen when I need a brain?
That brain will be programmed with all my knowledge,
all my memories, all my feelings – your
few little thoughts – if they are your thoughts – will cease
to be like a ripple on a pond – my pond.”