I found the world’s pelt
nailed to the picture-rail
of a box-room in a cheap hotel.

So that’s why rivers dry to scabs,
that’s why the grass weeps every dawn,
that’s why the wind feels raw:

the earth’s an open wound,
and here, its skin hangs
like a trophy, atrophied beyond all

taxidermy, shrunk into a hearth rug.
Who fleeced it?
No record in the guest-book.

No-one paid, just pocketed the blade
and walked, leaving the bed
untouched, TV pleasing itself.

Maybe there was no knife.
Maybe the world shrugs off a hide
each year to grow a fresh one.

That pelt was thick as reindeer,
so black it flashed with blue.
I tried it on, of course, but no.

from Corpus (Jonathan Cape, 2004), copyright © Michael Symmons Roberts 2004, used by permission of the author and The Random House Group Ltd.

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