The Human Market

Animals gather beneath a plasma screen in the square:
a colony of lemurs with calculators in their paws,
lizards with phones that twitter and purr.

How did you get here, naked, bruised, unshaven?
An owl scratches numbers into your shoulder.
Shackles creep round your ankles, insistent as vines.

A bear prises your jaws apart and peers at your molars.
Baboons clamber over you, prodding your limbs.
They lead you to a platform where a leopard barks

We begin the bidding at three.  The plasma screen flashes
as competing growls and screeches hammer the sky.
A tussle.  Feathers, blood.  A gorilla hoots victory.

He hands ten pellets of rabbit dung to the leopard,
pokes your chest and grunts six syllables in a chain.
Remember that, boy, warns the leopard, it’s your name.




William Stephenson’s first collection Travellers and Avatars was published by Live Canon in 2018.  His second collection The Lotus Bunker is due in 2021. His pamphlets are Rain Dancers in the Data Cloud (Templar, 2012) and Source Code (Ravenglass, 2013).