Peacock Tale 2
The navy from Tarshish arrives with gold and silver,
ivory, apes, and Peacock, with his hundred eyes.
King Solomon brings his children and his hundred wives.
Stretching a mile or so long, they line up on the wharf
to view the strange barbaric throng. Peacock assumes
the reception is for him and almost manages a song.
Peahen, ignored by everyone, dutifully following in his
rhythm, carries the suitcases and a flagon of
smelling salts. Peacock marches up and down and struts
his stuff and preens. Until he fluffs his tail and careens
to the limit of his pride. It is then that Peahen rushes
to his side and hisses in her quiet voice: ‘Feet! Feet!’
Peacock, as if stung, whimpers and in retreat lowers
his head in shame. Pride falls like his eyes to the ground
and his ugly black feet. Peahen unstoppers the smelling
salts and delivers it neat. Peahen does not consider
herself cruel, or, as some would have it, consumed by
jealousy. Oh no, she says, it’s just that a woman’s got to
protect the one who puts bread on the table, even from
himself. Nobody looking at him (she says) would suppose
his brain to be the size of a pea, his head so light, all that
arrests his fancy, or even more permanent flight is his
wife, me, having to remind him every time, of those ugly
black feet. The only thing that keeps him grounded and in line.
From Over the Roofs of the World (Insomniac Press, 2005), copyright Olive Senior 2005, used by permission of the author and the publisher.