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.”

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IN MY LAST LIFE I WAS A WOMAN (by James Munro)

“that little yard where I squatted in the dust”

In my last life I was a woman.
I lived in India. Uttar Pradesh.

Sometimes I still feel like
a woman who lives in Uttar Pradesh

speaks Hindi, worships Siva
and the local goddess, Lalita as Candika.

Her man went to the city, never came back.
My man. He died. No one told her but she knew.

Her two sons followed him. My sons. Me,
I never left the village. Hardly ever left

that little yard where I squatted in the dust
and ground the meal, thrusting away the hen –

The lurki – the name comes back –
that I would never kill. I never saw traffic, not like now, here,

crowded streets, traffic lights, people thrusting and swirling,
clucking like a thousand greedy hens

pouring down into the underground and onto the train
locked in and rocketing beneath the city like in a submarine.

I want to get out. I want to get back to
my Indian roots. Or my submarine roots.

I never saw the sea then, either,
except in my dreams. In my dreams

I was a fish.

THE LILY-POND (by James Munro)

There were goldfish in the pond where I grew up,
shubunkins and huge golden carp, newts
of course, and tadpoles, and in spring great skeins
of frogspawn. Concealed among the water lilies,
I would watch as dry, clothed people
strolled past or sat upon the wooden bench
and chatted or kissed or simply rested awhile
and gazed at the pond, the water lilies, me,
without seeing.

But time goes by and life,
and the world we knew goes with it:
one day, the officers of the law –
a social worker, a teacher,
a policeman – came and fished me out
and sent me away to school.

Now I sit on that bench and gaze and dream
and see great golden carp glide into
the sunlight then with a silent flick of a fin
slip back under the lily leaves and out of sight.
Watch a frog swim up to breathe, climb out,
look round. Put out my hand. It hops away.

Tadpoles have gills, frogs don’t.
Which is unfair. Children too,
though most don’t care, don’t
understand that for them there’s still
an option to living on land.

A fly on my arm crawls and tickles. Another
joins it. I move, they buzz, zip, return.
I lower my hand into the water, close
my eyes and dream I never went to school,
never learnt to be a person, clothed and dry.

M. L. (by James Munro)

[Written on the death of a friend when I lived in Casablanca, many years ago …]

For some today the worry and the work
go on, the weariness, and then for some the wine.
For some the wonder of it all perhaps.
But not for you. For some today
there will be no tomorrow.
For you there’s no today.
In the tatty sun-split Spanish streets
behind the Institute,
the anger and the laughter and the tears
build up once more;
soon they’ll fade with evening.
Lalla Yacout in the twilight:
Arabs throng and fight for space, a place
on the old French buses, hanging from doors and windows,
then are gone. Night falls. For most
the sun will rise again, but not for you.