Song of the Flags

Flapping mast-way between land and sky
Flags of Honolulu and Hawaii
I sing, those of the Caymans, Brunei,
Papua and New Guinea, Iceland, Togo,
Brazil’s a rhomboid yellow porthole
Through which night universally revolves.
So many the designs and combinations!
Flag of the Boilermaker’s Union
(Camden Branch); the Dominican flag on
Which the winds stop for a game of Ludo;
Tigerish guidons of butterflies,
Mountains’ atavistic tricolours,
The meandering pennants of rivers,
Trans-national flag of light and air,
For these too I sing, flags of dragon-breath,
The stony unflutteringness of cromlechs,
Zebras stampeding stripily across plains,
Captain Amunsden’s snow-stained banner
Some Eskimo now sports as an extra shirt,
Weird metallic flags from other planets,
Martian flags as big as the big toe-nail
Of the big Red Rock Eater, that of Venus
A cobalt blue and iridescent pastel
Capable of infinite expansion
Or contraction to cater for the differences
In eyesight found in extra-terrestrial beings;
Flags of Uranus and of Saturn
That seem not to exist so much larger
And more rarefied are they than our own,
Flickering technicoloured flag woven
From childhood afternoons in cinemas,
Banderoles of Captain Perry’s Crowship
Steaming into Tokyo Bay, behind it
A crashing green crockery of waves,
Mountaineer’s flags buried beneath snowdrifts,
A ships’ ensign turned handkerchief against which
Swordfish nowadays shine their noses
And oysters nonchalantly polish pearls;
Amoebae-type flags in clouds and oilslicks,
Vast mastless smogs and fogs and mists,
Geo-thermal flags of fumaroles,
Lava’s slow-spreading red and sable,
Farewell flags and flags of flags, flagging flag
Of sunset hoisting how many more flags
One midnight instant dreamily unfurls

Martin Bennett | Mudlark No. 12
Contents | Apparent Failure: A Triptych