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Poem by Sheila Hillier

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Sheila Hillier (pictured, in a photo by Derek Adams) this Friday, especially as this is her birthday.

Hillier is a medical sociologist who has researched in China for many years and is now Professor Emeritus at Queen Mary's School of Medicine. She began writing poetry in 2001 under the direction of the late Julia Casterton. I have been working with her on her poems, through the Poetry School, these last few years.

Her work is widely published in British poetry magazines, including at Nthposition, and she was recently commended in the UK's highly-prestigious National Poetry competition, for the poem included below. Hillier is currently putting together her first full collection. I think it is a very impressive manuscript.

Pollux and Castor, elephants

Krupps’ cannons pound the walls,
the darkness smells of soil and gas;
at Voison’s, rue Cambon, a special black card
buys sauce souris on pate of rat.

It’s a challenge to garnish donkey with cepes;
there’s a gold market for cats of all colours
Castor feels itching deep in his trunk,
Pollux walks in the snow and shivers.

The gates of the Jardin des Plantes have been chained
for over a week, but now carts from de Boos
are waiting outside. Zebras are easy, Martin the bear
puts up a fight, now they draw on a ruse

and Adolphe Lebeeque, whom Castor knows well
wheels out the last kilos of branches and fruit
which he tips at the base of their sandpaper tree
as others take aim from the rainwater butt.

Grey lumps too big to be dragged,
so they’re jointed there in a scratch abbatoir.
Feet sliced away first, and eager talk spreads
to long lines outside the Boucherie Courtier.

A starving gourmet hurries out to catch
the carrier pigeon’s fragile message,
which unfurled, says, Yes! There’s ‘variety meat’
in a siege menu of elephant blood sausage.

Goncourt dines at seven, the evening sky
is brilliant with the enemy’s flares.
There’s Consomm’ Oliphant, filet de mulet
and rarest, by Choron, the trompe sauce Chasseur,

nearly spoiled by Adolphe, who wept bitterly,
gripping dead Castor’s trunk in the snow.
The butchers were waiting to finish their work:
‘C’est foutu Adolphe!’ But he wouldn’t let go.

poem by Sheila Hillier
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