In the days when I dressed for dinner
and long Edwardian evenings
we made a fine potage of hyena
and sipped daiquiris from conch shells
on the veranda. Houseboys brought plates and
news of visiting dignitaries,
and we swept the bugs out
lest we forget how to be civilized.
Our gardens overgrew us:
how thoroughly we snipped
away at their lush aggression!
We scripted a more orderly diurn
for our wild mahogany home—
the hearty breakfast, tea at 5
and ways to keep the termites out.
The health of the world was at stake.
We brought reading, writing and ciphering,
tailored shirts, jackets and knee pants,
Parliament and well-constructed shoes. We
brought houses at right angles, glass
chandeliers, raised beds, paved roads
and trained men. We brought the Scientific Method,
thick typeset encyclopaedias with coloured plates, coins
and banks and factories and clocks and ordained clergy.
We brought engraved silverware and we brought guns.
In spite of it all, the sea nipped and snapped at our rocky ankles, and the whitecaps thundered as high as they wanted to. My lace hemline soiled and ruined, I lost my diamonds on the beach somewhere. The garden, of course, took itself back. When the termites finally digested all four of my bedposts, I lay down against the weave of my acacia mat, and, at last, slept.
“I, Colony” won the 2010 Burning Bush Poetry Prize, and was published in the Fall 2010 edition of the online literary journal In Our Own Words. It was also published in For a Better World 2012: Poems and Drawings on Peace and Justice by Greater Cincinnati Artists, Ghosn Publishing, 2012. It may be forthcoming in The Best of the Burning Bush Poetry Prize, Burning Bush Publications, Santa Rosa, CA (publication TBD). bbbooks.com