Unidentified Photo on the Internet

art by Thomas HawkThe seaweed men patrol the icy town
with sticks wrapped in bumbergrass
their hooked beaks hissing steam,
eyes painted open against the twilight.

They trudge the streets like shaggy
marionettes, boots cracking glazed tarmac,
past tiny houses asleep in banks of snow.
The white mountain looks down on suburbia.

Bracken-clad and thistle-shod, the watchmen
pause, two fuzzy pillars holding up the sky.
Who are these fur-girded sentinels, guarding
the precarious stillness, listening for a shot?

Despots and their henchmen never dress up silly.
The uniforms, medals and gold lapels–each button
sewn tight against beatings, collars crisp
as the edge of a blade, shoes black as bruising.

The green men mock us with their small parade,
marching in line, then two abreast, officious–
bumbersticks perched on their left shoulder,
palace guards unblinking in time of jubilee.

Legume-coloured pantaloons, be proud.
I couldn’t find your names on Wikipedia.
If you shed tears from those golf-ball eyes,
I’ll be none the wiser, and very far away.

Everything has a name, a place, a purpose.
But when two green life-size puppets appear
in an elderly neighbour’s hedgerow, do you
ask them in for tea? Or hide the china?

The green men mock us with their small parade,
trudging the streets like shaggy marionettes
their hooked beaks hiss, they clutch bumbersticks,
each eye painted white against the dawn.

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Robert Peake is an American poet now living in England. His poems have appeared in North American Review, Poetry International, Iota, and are forthcoming in Magma Poetry. He has received honourable mentions in the Atlantic Monthly Student Writing Competition and the Indiana Review Prize, as well as two Pushcart Prize nominations. His debut collection, Human Shade, was selected as part of the Lost Horse Press New Poets Series in America by Marvin Bell.

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