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1955

July 15, 2017

1955

i.m. Richard Langridge *

 

Magpies love a rabbit halfway dead

to peck its weeping eyes, disdain the rest

then nonchalantly pause and lift their heads,

hop down and pick their way along the vale

of pain to blind and leave undead, the next.

 

Romans loved rabbits, too: their settlers sailed

with does and bucks, as well as laws and peace.

We love them less we’ve placed them on a trail

where gun-green birds glint in the April sun,

imperious at their casual charnel feast.

 

We met the halfway dead, half hidden among

the dead, as we advanced towards Berlin.

 

I lift the stricken rabbits one by one,

take cover from their blank and aimless stare,

then break their necks and set them down within

the shadowed margins of the coppice, where

last autumn’s leaves lie cold and half decayed.

 

The magpies scatter but they reappear.

 

I’m tired of asking if this horror show

would have me save or kill, or kill to save,

and – as I watch myself deal every blow –

if Romans’ clearer view of dying made

them kinder. Perhaps the feasting magpies know.

 

 

 

* Lt. Langridge helped liberate Belsen concentration

camp in 1945. Mixomatosis was introduced to Britain

on his farm in Kent in 1953. Two years later,

he shot himself, by which time the number of rabbits

in the country had declined by 95%.

 

(This poem was shortlisted and commended in the Binsted Arts Festival 2016, and is on Binsted Arts Festival 2016 website).

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