carmen cygni

black labradors bark on an Isle of Dogs beach
and beluga sturgeon whistle Blackberry Way
as they lay black eggs, shiny as the Shard.
a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square
but the sweetness of its song could not compare
to the fiscal fishy arias of the sturgeon’s
still extant forefather, the anathemata of
the beluga whale – canary of the Thames.
the King told the Queen and the Queen
told the under footman: we must have some caviar
for the royal slice of toast.
upstream at Thames Eyot
a choir of black swans brood in wait
preparing their carmen cygni for the spectre of exit,
the republican party’s uninvited ghost.
on Oliver’s Island where Cromwell once hid
no state of grace is here to stay
and the people are wondering what they did –
the sturgeon never no more sing nor lay.
eels on Eel Pie Island sing the blues
wriggling in uncomfortable nostalgia
for remembrance of things past.
the first black swan along the way
opens its beak and prepares to speak
as the silent sturgeon wonder
what on earth it’s going to say.

(With kind acknowledgment to BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House. Beluga whales are known as the canaries of the sea, hence those on the Thames are the canaries of the Thames.)



Julian Isaacs

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