The Patron Saint of Sinners

21st August 1998 at 01:00
There have been better years

In late August, forest fires

eat through the locust trees,

the beehives burning in neat pyres

of sweet ash. When the meerschaum mine

lays off two hundred men,

The Oyu Zoo is ordered shut,

on grounds of luxury. The stepped

concrete of the wolves' enclosure

is earmarked for an outdoor theatre,

and the camel is auctioned off

in seven shares of fur and rough

topside. The aquarium stock

is given out in Oil Sellers' Park

to anyone who wants it.

Blue angel-fish and the white

ammonite curls of conch meat

spit and blurt in hot fat,

and the ostrich from the aviary

lasts until St Leonard's day

in November - the patron saint

of prisoners and fruit markets.

In the winter streets,

rabbit fat is cheap,

and cardamon and sugar beet

sell at the price of better things,

the town sick of the taste of meat.

* Tobias Hill is the author of two poetry collections. His third, 'Zoo', will be published by Oxford University Press in November. This year Hill is the inaugural poet-in-residence at London Zoo.

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