Questions is a collaboration by Lucy Kempton and Joe Hyam. Poems are based on questions drawn from an agreed starting question and formed by answers, which contain and inspire the next questions. In response to Lucy's first question, Joe kicks off. This follows our earlier work in Compasses, archived here, where Lucy's photographs illustrate Joe's series of 50 sonnets under the title Handbook for Explorers.

Tuesday 7 April 2009

What do you know of crocodiles?

In sluggish, yeasty rivers, they glide like logs;
time laden. They sleep in mud, clogged
with a cruel sacredness. They lie and weep,
weep and lie, showing that grief's for fools,
and tears are trickery.

Dense and old, but moving fast to kill,
their only wisdom's stony memory. Still
cold and glassy eyes reproach
from long before we were us,
and other monsters were.

They swallow time, and, to keep them safe
their children too, so that their jaws
are cradles, and their mouths disgorge
the future. Their smile knows this.
And more, which you don't want to know.

Are you smiling?


The Crow said...

"Are you smiling?"

You bet! My favorite part is the three lines before your question above: a perfectly drawn portrait of a creature whimsical, maternal and ominous, all at once.

One of my best remembered childhood songs, Never Smile at a Crocodile, has a line, "Don't be taken in by his toothy grin..."

Shivers of delight!

Roderick Robinson said...

It's a very special smile born out of complacency at topping the food tree. And you're right: I don't want to know. What's frightening is the containment of extremes: all that sluggishness and weightiness combined with an ability to leap. Ah, a moment: I'll retire and open a pub called The Leaping Crocodile where I'll sit behind the bar and regard my customers with a saurian eye.

Dick said...

What a beautifully tailored match. There's quite a dance shaping up here.

Lucas said...

I love the lines - their jaws
are cradles, and their mouths disgorge/ the future...

A medieval stonesmith could well have curled this image round one of the Church pillars you have photographed in Boxelder.

The Crow said...

Lucy, may I quote from your response in a post at my blog?


Rouchswalwe said...

Sinking my teeth into this wonderful wordsmithery ...