Leo Tolstoy Talks Imperialism

I have an eternal headache said the Colonel to the nearest pigeon. 
Had it since the war I’ll be damned. Leo Tolstoy 
he said to another pigeon. When did you board this train? 
Oh I don’t know where the old words are 
lost in the trenches. Now the world is one they say 
Leo, I was just a twinkle when you overthrew the aristocrats. 
I went to St. Petersburg and there were pigeons too 
shitting white on the white Hermitage on a white night. 
What do you think of that Leo Tolstoy? The world 
has such a small face, just ask your pigeon friends. 


Johnny approached on a horse, 
Rode up. I stayed where I was. 
If someone is via horse 
Exit on foot is futile. 
I have a heart, don’t think 
Hooves are meaningless to me. 
There’ve been daylight dreams of a white stallion, 
Riderless against the sunset. That’s where 
We differ. Careful with that umbrella keep your feet 
This side of the border. It’s war in peacetime 
And washed-out birds practice bullet awareness: 
Swoops, figure eights and crash landings. 
The Season has opened and old men shoot ducks on the moor. 
I first heard of ‘roaming the moor’ in The Secret Garden
A soft-whistling boy had a flute and animal friends. 
Perfect way to get by but impossible to imitate 
In the suburbs. Years later Johnny has a phobia of flying 
And we remain where we began: Rusting fence, children 
To come and Sundays trying to worm the cat 
With clothes-pegs and kind, steady hands. 
This routine exceeded all expectation. 
Johnny comes in from the garden carrying lettuces 
And cauliflowers by their throats. He cooks 
While I teach our seventh budgie to perch on my finger. 
The budgie arrived on our windowsill last winter. 
It was missing part of its beak and recited 
Moses parted the waves with an obvious lisp. 
On the third waves we lifted the glass 
And let him in. Johnny and I, 
We can never say no. 


Frances Samuel works and writes in Wellington. The two poems that appear in Turbine 05 were written during a year she spent in Akita, Japan, where there were 31 typhoons, a snow dog festival and a three-day holiday called Golden Week.