The Crowd

Cast out from lamps
of tinkering minds
shadow beings with leathery hides
are shuffling round, pressing buttocks
against unsuspecting skulls.
Green pearly feathers tickle
horns catch on chandeliers and
large-flippered beasts get stuck
in revolving doors.

Fresh-escaped from the cage of our ribs
a menagerie of unvoiced thoughts
have come to crowd polite events
house parties
Halloweens
board meetings
kitchen rota discussions
netball club
bad dates at Pizza Hut
– weddings border on stampedes –
or at mother-in-law high teas
shopping trolley skirmishes
the headmaster’s office
or gym class with
that pompous girl with perfect teeth
whose smug, corrected grin you cannot bear.

So bears emerge to scrape the chairs
and blow their noses, wheezing
in the jostling hairy void your
prim diplomacy creates.
Five tonnes of pink-feathered guilt,
a beaked embarrassment, some
supercilious wombats
huff and ruffle and frill
between us, clear as day to those
who won’t give in to nerves
and look away.

“Hello, meet Germaine here, he’s
my knowledge of your infidelity
enfleshed.”

“How very strange! This is Bonnie,
she’s my thought of you being a
jumped-up petty criminal
with appalling
taste in kipper ties
expressed in fur and claw.
So soft, but gracious!
The fleas are big as mice.”

Sometimes I see a man
surrounded by a murder of crows
dark thoughts wheel round
enclose the pillow of light
constricted in his heart.
Or it might be a woman
with a circus of monkeys
hanging from her fragile twigs
snatching lollipops and
pinching passersby
tugging her left and right
and all she’ll say is “Christ!
I’m feeling nervous.”

So thoughts leap out into
palpable blockages in our paths.
Amid this jungle I think
I’ll swim with swarms of
honeybees, flock with Monarchs
in buddleia thirst
or find a cloud
to pass the time wrapped in
and give the crowd the slip.

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