Under a quarter moon, 9 October 1777
Mrs Jane Salisbury’s corpse harvested
by the gravedigger of St George the Martyr
and on a Bloomsbury street, asked
of the contents of his sack, the man’s helper
answered, “I don’t know”.
Ask the antiquarian about their sackfuls of curiosity
harvested by the unknowing naive empiricist
and in the formaldehyde theories float
the subject, of crown or anthropocene, in vivisections
spliced thin in petri slides insulating
the windows of the Inns of Court.
To disbelieve, the same as to believe otherwise,
the surgeon’s hope persisted among
the wriggling dissectors of unpinnable sensibilities
named after monarchs, and they could call
for abolition by the name of reform
to take the Empire organ for machine,
the Church moral for machinist’s pension,
and the Labour cross for civilizer’s burden.
To be analytic and contrary, to shoot
the Burmese elephant down, not to utter unutterrables,
they kept greased the turbines, even at their most
surgical, asking those who had it all to lose
to loosen their nuptials, their baptisms,
their burial soils.
Kneeling in prayer, the most ghastly
artifact in all the curios, one who
does not connect the artificial exhibition syntaxes,
living dead of the a priori, believed,
disembodied, the threat to the poppies
from Flanders to Hong Kong,
is the devout ocean which clothes the body,
body with its head for tourism, ocean which is Britannia no more;
as the natives gone native come to do their
dodo hunting in Bloomsbury, and the sky opens up
above Russell Square and underneath is
the Middlesex field, a mobile phone, a Norman,
a Roman, a pig, buried communally
too far from home. Even after the last death
there will be another. And we will put away
the last metaphor that has no more meaning
and we will lay to rest the proud
and carry away their ruins, I’m sure.
But the cheerless sport continues this day,
the next, the next,
and Boudica resists,
resist with a head of halogen and
a body archivist of public works,
resist on a Sainsbury’s diet
and a trip to Ibiza next year if the rent don’t rise.
You are not America, you are not Europe.
Not the City, not Westminster.
The Empire has always been
between Euston and Holborn.
All you had to do was follow
the socialists and the dodos.