He didn’t need one, he was an animal,
The animal which outmanoeuvred Europe.
But in the photograph, as on a boot-polish lid,
The ostrich struts cross-legged, a mapping stool.
Harar is four thousand miles from Paris
And just a Metro ride from two World Wars.

We should ask the ostrich what it thinks
Of scholarship, of lurid nights with absinthe,
Of being in the months of love for essay prizes,
The coal-smoke-crystalled walls of Camden Town,
The semi-educated painters jetting in
To put some Prester John in Cork Street daubs.

France deserved this tribal fetishism,
Its language had become mere logarithm,
Its classicism a blunt guillotine.
Supposing Rimbaud met Sir Richard Burton,
They would have riden ostriches round town
To startle the solared anthropologists.

Advertisements