Poppadums in a Garden

By Allan Lake


On the footpath beside the pond

in the idyllic botanical garden, poppadums

fallen from heaven or thrown for the hell of it  –

likely source the small Indian cafe nearby.

This is not a poem about South Asian cookery. 

Pigeons trying, with difficulty,

to peck off enough to get a beakful.

They know edible when they spot it

but the scale is puzzling, problematic.

The fittest intent on getting as much

of the tasty treasure as possible.

This is not a poem about Darwin’s theory in general

or, more specifically, lack of cooperation among pigeons.

The sometime socialist St Francis in me got off

the bench and stepped on those giant crisps

crunch crunch   crunch crunch    crunch

enabling all to partake of the manna from god-

knows-where as I sipped my overpriced coffee,

feeling that the world was a marginally better place.

I voluntarily divulge here that I kept homing pigeons

as a child, valued racing homers and fantails

so I have some knowledge regarding this species.

This poem is not about my childhood or hobbies.

The mob (technically “flock”) of scroungers

got fairly frenzied with every bird tucking in until one,

an impressive grizzled male, decided to dominate.

This poem is not about gender inequality.

He started pecking to the right, pecking to the left

and even plucking bits of feather from the heads

of others that tried to stand their ground.

This poem is not about the propensity for savagery

where competition for a resource is at stake.

Cooka coo  Cooka coo  Cooka coo

inflating his gullet, doing crazy u-turns

to accompany a threatening song and dance.

He couldn’t oversee all that was left and re-takeaway

beyond his superior powers but still he objected

to others of his kind enjoying a meal.

Hungry, the nervous others snaffled one here,

one there while trying to avoid that aggressive,

busy beak, the violent wing judo chops.

This poem is not about collective bargaining/social justice.

Anyway, that’s how things were going

in the free-for-all until a seagull opportunist

with much more threatening beak landed

and laid claim to all bits remaining.

Let’s just say this poem gives voice to a serve

of dumb poppadums, their short troubled lives

that somehow moved so many.


Image by: Patryk Sobczak