Crocodiles at Siem Reap
by Patrick Deeley
They wait beyond the tourist tickets
you queue to purchase; beyond the ‘Help
Preserve Wild Animals’ sign,
the shop selling leather accessories
where display models of their kind
stand on hind legs – tails up,
teeth bared. From a platform you look
at their living flesh, pay extra
to play God, feed them chicken or duck
that flutter on strings. Triggered,
they shift and snap, float or flop,
appear to glisten, so much bric-a-brac
in the scummy pond; or squat
cornered by their pen, snouts reverting
to studies in ruefulness, pudgy mitts
splayed. You note the armour
pebbling their backs, the thick whips
of their tails; remark how – worn
by weight of lassitude – they resemble
pummelled rubber or plastic.
Brutes of nature, what mercy
could they imagine, or ever hope to win?
Who cuddle together still,
as creatures caught between squabbles
and distress calls will – who have it
in them to offer each other
affection, to dream of mud-banked rivers,
cool shadows cast by big-leafed trees,
a lost somewhere, a river running clean.
Headstuff is now open for poetry submissions for our spring Poem of the Week series. We are extending this deadline to the end of April. We are also accepting submissions for Poetry Week. Submission window for Poetry Week is open until the 31st of March 2020. Check our submissions page for guidelines.