Tabasco

Afra Kingdon

Tabasco was the finest cockerel in the land,
loud, trigonal spurs, the fluency of his measured, laden step;
a full-breasted zodiac scratching stately triumvirate markings in the sand.

He had stolen a peck, a crumb of sun, he wore it, decadent,
a feathered hearth, flame-orange, damask and a chilli-pepper tail.
The cocked head – that Saturn-ringed-star of a dilate eye.

His matings, so practised the violate throttle and ruffle made obsolete.
Then, the closed-eye heaven of a dust-bath only when all scrub and sky’s snipers slept.
He had a surety, a delicacy; teaching chicks to forage was ne’er beneath him.

He could fight but why when the simple sight of him, his lustre and dazzle,
could make a lesser fowl bow, turn, blink to this ecliptic brilliance.
He would peck grain from your palm, slowly, as a careful cleric,
blotting, smudges, from a, flourish, on, an ornate, manuscript, might, well, do.

And once, he even laid an egg, it was seed-small and totally spherical – solid calcium –
rollable – another century’s clay marble playing games with our platitudes,
our stone-set assumptions; we kept it wrapped and in a box, an epiphanous souvenir.

We would find ourselves visiting, often, his scratch and bustle corner plot,
just to have a second look – what would this bright bird do next?
Morning’s own emissary standing sentry, at our door, little god of the garden,
we kept warm at the Horus-simmer heat of his hob;

until, the lorries from the factory farm, back, Johannesburg bound, ploughed through
the village, their rude battery crescendo of blackened, bombardier wheels – eighteen-wheelers –
farting out filth, a pathogen trail of Frankenstein guano, a dry-storm cloud.

Then our clean, fat, red ‘n rosy hens dropped, one after the other, with a wet and rotting,
a hell’s angels’ angry greasy death – a wipe-out – a foul and fetid plague of all plagues.
Last to go was Tabasco; snuffed out, our candle, the finest cockerel, in the land.
Now our village is pillaged of all fowl, all bombilate-and-thrice foot drawings, in the sand.