'Towards Columbus, San Francisco' by Sarah Targett

‘Towards Columbus, San Francisco’
by Sarah Targett

Hello, hello, hello
Is there anybody there?
The mobile line goes empty,
Alive, then wincing to a buzz.

There’s a mouth-shaped void
In the gap between
What’s native and what isn’t.
I’m seeing San Francisco,
But it could easily be Kent,
Where, unlikely bright flashes
Against the pencil-grey of England,
A pandemonium of escaped parrots,
Have nested in the oaks and hawthorn…

I speak: Can’t you see
While you’re standing
Static with your mobile
That the dog is missing,
Sniffing with longing his walkabout?
The tethered animal strains,
Beyond the confines of the tableau,
Wishing he was a bird,
And and could migrate, could fly.

TheĀ urbanite responds…
Incongruous in his ironed camping shorts,
Spruced, but sporting wild facial hair,
Telling me that a couple of beech-green parakeets
Have just flown past,
Bristling the hairs on his head.
What’s happened to all the birds of the air?
He asks. His voice is strained,
The traffic beyond buzzing to a wince.

I too am straining; I’m all ears,
Trying to get a birds-eye view
Of this modern fusion
Where wild yearning for the native world
We’re fast losing
Is becoming another asset,
Another sketched-out money-spinner,
Transcribed onto the commercially-driven
Landscape that lurks beneath.

I don’t like you. I’m afraid to say this.
He stands still in the street and hails a taxi,
His bags of new clothes
Rustling their plastic against his bare legs.

The parrakeets meanwhile
Whip past his head again,
Squawking across his shoulder,
Red-green flashes like gunfire from a pirate ship,
His crimson shirt suddenly a symbol of mutiny,
Bright against the pencil-lined buildings.
In a far-flung way, perhaps he’s taking a stand;
My heart softens with the blow;
The value of wound.

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