This poem follows the amblings of two bears through Victorian England as part of a clan of gypsies. The poem makes use of English Romani words for towns and cities, these words say something secret about how gypsies feel about these places, for example: Lincolnshire is Pappin-eskey Tem, which means flat duck county. Oxford is Lil-engreskey gav, or the town made of books. Suffolk is known to Romanis as Dinelo tem, or the fools? county.
For Gabriel John Keenan Morley
PawPaw and Paprika, two great bears of the Egyptians
of Lancashire, the Witches’ County, Chohawniskey Tem
who, when our camp plucked its tents and pulled out its maps,
walked steadily with the wagons, ambling, always ambling,
all across the open pages of wet England, footing
as far as Pappin-eskey Tem, the flat Duck County,
crossing to Curo-mengreskey Gav, the Boxers’ Town;
padded on to Paub-pawnugo Tem, Apple-Water County
as good for bears as for their Gypsy masters, although
who is master is moot after much apple-water;
then to bide by Bokra-mengreskey Tem, Shepherds’ County,
for their collies are trained not to bark at bears, but slyly, gently,
slink big-eyed as children behind their shepherd’s greeting.
Ambling, bears, always ambling… mooching to Mi-develeskey Tem,
My God’s Town, the God for all bears too,
God of paws and padding, of Polar, Kodiak and Koala;
sniffing superiorly through Dinelo Tem, the Fools’ County;
circling with our circus to Shammin-engreskey Gav, Chairmakers’ Town,
nosing north through Lil-engreskey Gav, a Town Made of Readers,
then paws over eyes for Kaulo Gav, The Black Town;
joy at Jinney-mengreskey Gav, The Sharpers’ Town;
to Lancashire as it was then, wider county of white witches,
to the clean camps, to the great brown bears of the Egyptians.
To PawPaw and Paprika, backwards in time they go, pad pad. Goodbye.
The bears’ route: Lancashire to Lincolnshire to Nottingham to Herefordshire to Sussex to Canterbury through Suffolk to Windsor through Oxford to Birmingham to Manchester and Lancashire.
from The Invisible Kings (Carcanet, 2007), ? David Morley 2007, used by permission of the author and the publisher