Award-winning poet Mimi Khalvati, founder of The Poetry School in the UK, has penned this poem about the survival instinct of the tiniest primate on the planet.
Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur
We should have been lemurs, lowering our metabolism
to suit, going into torpor in the cool dry winter months
to save on water and energy. We too should have sailed
on a raft of matted leaves out of poor Africa, out to Madagascar
into a forest of mangrove and thorn scrub, feeding off gum,
sweet larvae sugars, bedding down in tree holes en famille.
The very smallest of us, the veriest Tom Thumb, the most
minute pygmy, tsitsidy, mausmaki, itsy bitsy portmanteau,
little living furry torch, eyes two headlamp luminaries, front
a bib of chamois, tip to tail – and mostly tail – barely as long
as the line I write in, despite illegal logging, slash and burn,
would survive longer than many folk, especially in captivity.
Only the barn owl, goshawk, to watch for in the dark – raptors
with their own big beauty. But Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur
is caught in the act – a chameleon clasped in her hands,
a geisha lowering her fan: the smallest primate on our planet.
Mimi Khalvati was born in Tehran and grew up in England. She lives in London and has published eight collections of poetry with Carcanet Press, including “The Meanest Flower”, shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize, and “Child: New and Selected Poems 1991-2011”, a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation. She is the founder of The Poetry School, where she teaches. Her UK awards include a Cholmondeley Award from the Society of Authors, and an Arts Council Writer’s Award. Mimi is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of The English Society. Her new collection, “The Weather Wheel”, is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.
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