by Ruth Yates

I bought a rechargeable torch

with winding mechanism

from my first salary.

By the sides of roads, under

bushes and plants,

geranium and box,

I find the choicest hedgehogs.

Then I light a safety match,

put the jars down,

and smoke the fleas out from the spikes.


If the hedgehog chokes on the smoke

it doesn’t matter too much.

Wise men never grieve the dead,

they say, but you have to listen carefully

because hedgehogs talk quietly

and often get overwhelmed by leaves.


I keep my fleas under the bed,

in a shoebox. Once there was a riot,

a mutiny, and I had to escape through a window.

They jumped down the street in packs.