Poem of the Week | Crocodiles at Siem Reap by Patrick Deeley

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. 

Cover photo by Bianca Castillo on Unsplash