In the Tea Museum
Before she slipped her peachblossom sash
through your nosering, you wouldn't be led.
You'd brewed up a storm from dried shit and straw,
clattering down the ramp through the stumbling yells
of the abattoir lads. Wasn't it frosty
beneath your hooves, the lobby's marble floor?
Before she guided you by her right little finger
back through the wreckage, her left hand
clasping her loosened gown over, you'd been the kind
to rush at your two-horned reflection, shattering
display cases, acting out ambiguities,
dragon or charger, lion or unicorn.
But weren't your imaginary matadors
just panicked visitors, dropping
their freetrade Earl Grey for you to stamp on?
Before your all-black and glassy eyes
took in her porcelain face, you'd shown
no discrimination. You'd trampled Wedgwood
and novelty teapots in Hollywood faces.
Chests of Assam and Lapsang Souchong
you'd splintered, and the model clipper,
the racket sending the kimono'd girls
scurrying from their ceremonies, one two three,
your bull years cocked at the stories whispered
in the tiny paired pattering of their size fours.
Didn't security, stirred from his cuppa,
lock you in before they could find the last geisha?
After the debris settled, as you stood four-hooved and still,
the CD of that bamboo-flute still playing somewhere,
before she'd made a left-horned unicorn of you,
the last unbroken teapot gently rocking,
blue-white, on your right horn, you highstepping after,
gingerly, where china had lodged in your hooves,
hadn't she held the steaming cup to your nostrils
with its peachflower scents and its underscents
of soil turned beneath Himalayan foothills,
earth where your hoofprints are holy?
- Matt Kirkham, from The Lost Museums
Been reading Matt Kirkham's delightful 2006 collection, The Lost Museums, which is one of those rare collections that combine a strong overarching concept (each poem is a description of, or set in, an imaginary museum) with individual poems of beauty and stand-alone power.
You can hear a number of other poems from the collection here.