Bowood House, near Calne, Wilts

The flattened skin as if ironed without a crease
to the edge of the claws and the tail, lifeless in 2D
at the centre, in front of the fireplace: jaws, sabre teeth
wedged open under taxidermistís eyes
for fierceness - to rationalize
the murder that was yours, for sport
for proof of our pathetic domination.

Your leonine hide stretched like savannah,
the earth from the air, where gazelle and zebra
and wildebeest cross and pink flamingos
cloud above wherever there is water
but thereís none here, only dry musty leatherbound
books on the rising shelves; with their soporific smell
in the afterlunch haze...and above them
painted into the ceilingís moulding, in relief,
the faces of the Greek philosophers in profile
impassive as vases.

So we ruled
and now we pay the price

and as we stand to leave, to breathe the sunlight,
the alarm goes the suspects exit,
breaking the trance of centuries.


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