Colin Will: What Shall I Bring You?

Madagascar birds

Cattle egrets flutter up
from the mud walls that separate
field from field. They are so white,
it’s as if clouds have come to earth.
Between the neat rows
of grassy-green rice in the watery silt,
fish, frogs and insects thrive.

A kingfisher sits on a post
at the edge of a paddy-field,
alert for fish stirred up
by the farmer’s rake.

On a tree is a hammerkop,
her nest a pile of sticks.

At Ranomafana a buzzard spirals
over the canopy, calls in a voice
just like the ones back home.

Birders riffle through a borrowed book
to name the rarer jewels of the sky,
while we look at the long-legged chickens
scratching in the dirt, wondering which ones
will be our supper.



Homo erectus

Skinhead I’ll answer to,
or pinhead come to that.
I’m your bleedin ancestor,
with a skull what Dr Mesmer
would blether on about for hours.

I’ve got this small head, see,
but I’m not stupid.
Look at the nose – Roman almost,
aquiline nearly, refined.
Look at the lips!
Poutin, that’s what they’re doin,
pursed, as if to blow a kiss, darlin.

What big ears you’ve got, granddad!
All the better to
Listen! I’ve had it up to here
with all them clever folk – sapiens
they calls themselves, as if thinkin
makes them better. It don’t.

I came before you,
and all you can do
is call me names –
antecessor, rudolfensis,
heidelbergensis –
as if I’m a bleedin foreigner!
I ain’t; I’m a citizen of the world!

I stood on Africa’s
northern shores,
looked across the straits
of bleedin Bab el Mandeb,
saw the grass was greener
an built a boat, raft really,
an floated across.

I became you, and don’t you
forget it. Look inside yourself!
I’m here, I’m still here.
I haven’t forgotten family
like what you have.
Remember me! Remember Me!





Guinevere’s amulet centres on
precious stones, where the clutches of gold
are hammered round eyes whose blink
is coloured like no others.

The icy stare of diamonds flanks
the juice-green fire of emeralds.
Corundum’s cousins are the blues and reds:
sapphires dark as loveworn sunsets
glow with the passion of bruises;
cabochon rubies are plump, soft, bloody fruits.
All, bedizened, blaze along
a woven thong, a head band.
No crown compares. Despair, king,
for this one’s power
derives from deep inside
and outlasts iron.

Bend the knee
and she will raise you –
if she chooses. Leave trust behind
with judgement and the callow usages
of fools. This is an expensive wooing
and the cost, as always,
not to be measured. Bring gifts
of pearls and palaces, a throne
for her gaud-show, a bed
to forge charms,
and scorn for indecision.




What shall I bring you?

Silver-plattered peacocks,
whole roast piglets, squeal-garnished,
the apples and nuts of scented autumns,
wines to warm and liquefy?
Tell me your desires.

Slippery oysters, lemon-tanged,
breast of happy duckling,
dawn-cut asparagus, firm but tender,
drenched in admiring butter?
Tell me your desires.

Cheese with the cream of meadows
and the salt crust of cool maturing,
syllabubs, flummeries, fools,
fruit and toffee, unctuous comforters?
Tell me your desires.

Will fire-flicker impassion you?
Rugs and cushions surround, enfold,
the lethargy of luxury provoke
a tidal surge of careless pleasure?
Tell me your desires.

A book of sonorous verse,
songs of languid love,
a plucked ennui of harpsichords,
or the nervous flutter of lashes?
Tell me your desires.

The view from strident peaks,
summer’s breath by an ardent river,
a wind-scoured beach below
a castle of ancient rocks?
Tell me your desires.

Just your company, a hand
to your hand, a friend to hear
your anxious music, the lightning
of your language, your velvet voice?
I’ll tell you my desires.






Colin Will is a Dunbar-based poet and publisher. He teaches creative writing, runs workshops and readings, and was involved with the StAnza Poetry Festival. His 6th collection, The propriety of weeding, was published by Red Squirrel Press in 2012.

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