Game in a Dutch Castle
It is the pity of it, all those lives
stuffed on their pedestals, dead.
And a kind of shame pervades my pity
too – as if voyeur at some nasty game.
I shouldn’t be here looking, no.
You wouldn’t want it, would you, Bear?
More small birds than one can bear
in glass cases around the walls. Alive,
these little throats were singing – now
it’s like seeing the dawn chorus, dead.
So tiny . . . their very size the game . . .
Dead true, alas, the hunter’s eye. Pity
didn’t come into it. Now pity
overwhelms – I want to stroke the boar,
badger, feathered heads; say you’re not game,
you’re you. We’re all in this life
together. Out the window a dead
landscape stretches under snow. No
hop or bob, flick of wing or branch. No
rabbit, fox. Still and white. What pity
winter? I turn back to the dead
beaver, cougar, antelope, wolf . . .
remembering a green meadow, elk alive
and sparring for a doe. Not a game.
Yet I went hunting once. Not a game
at all the silence, early mist. No –
it was almost holy, life
breathing everywhere, beyond pity
or our small selves. Then bearing the deer
home after one shot only, dead.
How I loved Robin Hood, his skill, death
only the next stage in a game.
The merry men then cooked the hart
and ate . . . But, my lovelies, no,
you shouldn’t be here. Pity’s
no substitute for throbbing life.
I feel trapped, life beating plover wings
against death’s glass, and pity futile.
No. This is an awful game.
Game in a Dutch Castle by Margaret Wilmot won third prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (February 2018) judged by Mandy Pannett.
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