Monday 8 January 2024

What's in a name?

By Shoidur Rahman

French Martinique: no marionette martinet then, or nightingale. Thus begins this tail, as all tails do, quietly and decently, but rising to prenominal elaboration. The jackdaw may crakkajack alone, but listens to the earth call of toucan.

Now the toucan’s brow is so heavily, crossly drawn, a look of ineffable concentration is there like beetlebrow. But it's also endearingly light and playful as well. Wait, my bird, ‘til I get to the bottom of this tail. Wait, ‘til I end my song.

His crumpled orange beak is sharp, not yet for this world – nor so flash that he could start to work it like a hip-hop hopeful, complicity, asininely imitatio - but as a scimitar he might use it as a dagger, instead. - Fan that tail! But only just so – modestly! 

Don't grauble or grumble or grovel in the dirt, like a turkey. Be glossy, a high shine, be as polishedly black as any upperclass British person of high decorum wearing bowler hat and clipped moustache and suit. Be as black as the polished wood veneer of the effigies of a certain yesteryear, a toucan squat be on my windowsill bookshelf. 

But if in your boots you see reflected your own face, have a care you don't remember poor Indian shoe shine boys, who wore the big turbans, who daily pushed the brush, shovelling hay and other shit stuff, but never grovelled, earned only a rupee a day, or exchanged it so that their brother could eat. Only let it be, so that it live.

He’s quite fine, toucan, complete within these sheaves of leaf and shade, his tropical retreat. The black men come and go, toiling in the blazing sun. But his eye is gimleted, and he’s quick to scuttle, two at a time, on clawed feet, breathing respiration in a big billowing sky, which descends to our planet like the calmest bluest sheet you've ever seen…

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