The Patron Saint of Sinners
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.