Reflections by the Tortoise Pond
Pt 2. Oasis
I was feeding strips of red, raw flesh
to the Tortoise Pond’s ancient inhabitant
the other morning, and reflecting,
as I like to do for a minute or three,
on the peace and tranquillity
of my humble back yard garden,
an untidy Oasis in the suburban Landscaping,
a Feral Eden in the Cultural Desert.
Above, the Sky wore her winter-robe
of deep azure blue
The Trees in keeping with Tradition,
were garbed in the green and gold livery of their Tribe.
Below, the sun-dappled ground was a shifting mosaic
of jet and gold, through which there stalked
a scattering of bush-turkeys,
solemnly engaged in their ancestral pursuits.
A bright-eyed Butcher bird, a quick female plumed
in grey and brown,
perched on a wooden stake nearby,
eagerly awaiting the occasional bloody gobbets
I tossed her way.
Above me a raucous murder of Crows
voiced their disapproval
of the whole tortoise-feeding process
and what was clearly a wanton waste
of the Food of Crows, owed them
by Ancestral Privilege due to the Nobility of their Line.
Unlike the opportunistic Butcher-birds though,
they are far too cautious to ever approach
any human, even me,
and thus they must wait until I leave
before they can flap down and retrieve
the Offerings I carefully place
on branches and in the sacred forks of trees.
Meantime the Crows register their disapprobation
of the delay by dropping sticks and twigs upon me.
In the pond’s mirror surface
I can see these glossy cynics hop and dance
far above me, silhouetted high against the sky,
each crow a villain straight from Shakespeare
in their black stockinged leg,
like a Richard or Macbeth
for Life too proud to beg.
Lounging nearby the pond,
lying indolently in the sun,
a scarred, orange Tomcat ignores the activity.
A former stray and savage hunter of birds,
he has been taken in, fed and “civilized”
for the sake of the local wild-life.
Now no longer a mere “feral” cat,
hissing and skulking at human approach,
but now aware of his status of Companion,
and assured of his food
he forbears to hunt anything,
other than the occasional rat, for sport.
Still, it is early days in his rehabilitation,
I wouldn’t trust him too much out of my sight,
So I take care he is fed regularly and well,
so that most of the time
he’s busy sleeping off his last meal.
Yes, the Peace of my little Eden is bought,
subsidised you might say,
much as the PAX ROMANA of the mighty Roman Empire
was bought, that is; not so much by force of arms,
but by the regular feeding of the Hungry “Barbarian” tribes,
perched on their borders, with donatives and pay-outs
bribes and incentives.
Indeed, most of the “Barbarian Invaders” of those Centuries,
ie., Those who are held to hold much of the responsibility for
the “Downfall of the Roman Empire“, were not so much
“Invaders” intent on looting and burning, but more like what some Politicians would today call,
who were merely looking for somewhere to live.
No, these Invaders didn’t want to overthrow
the Roman system. They just wanted to be a part
of it’s Prosperity and shelter within in it’s relative Security.
Much like, for example, the many Mexicans and South Americans
today tunneling under the USA borders, or the multitude of Africans/Afghanis/Indians/ etc., desperately crowding onto rusty hulks/junks/dinghies to take a gamble at crossing the Mediterranean/Indian/Pacific/etc Sea/Ocean/River, or where ever the arbitrary Line in the sand is drawn, the Line that defines
the Invisible Economic Boundary between what is known as the First World nations and the Third World nations, or if you prefer, the Rich countries and the Poor Countries.
Things were muchly the same in Roman times. Constructions like Hadrian’s Wall were built as much to regulate Trade, Tax and Migration as they were to “stop the rampaging Barbarian Armies”.
The Roman immigration policies were so sophisticated they could even handle “mass migrations” of whole tribal groups at once,
moving them en masse to areas depopulated by plague or war
or to open up new land for development.
The system started to break down when King Theodoric wanted to move something like two hundred thousand or so fellow Goths, (basically his whole kingdom), across the Danube and into the safe, prosperous Roman Empire and as far away as possible from the ever growing menace of the Huns.
The Huns it should be noted, were real raping/burning/pillaging/eating raw meat style Barbarians, with a fondness for scarification and skull deformation, unlike the Goths who had been living next door to the Romans for a couple of hundred years by now and had picked up some table manners in the meantime. They were also by this stage some denomination or other of Christian, apparently not the right sort, according to Orthodox types, but still..
The Roman Emperor of the time, a non-entity whose name escapes me,
was not at first against this mass migration plan of Theodoric. Plague had ravaged the Balkans so the Goths could be used to quickly repopulate the ravaged provinces, and it was agreed the young men would be drafted into the Roman Army, (split up and spread out amongst the Legions so they don’t become a problem), and be granted citizenship upon discharge. It was a win/win situation.
Alas, the deal broke down. The Roman Governor in charge of supplying the migrating Goths was corrupt and in debt, embezzling much of the denarii supplied for feeding the Hungry Horde,
and charging extortionate sums for the little grain he did provide,
seizing property, selling Gothic children into slavery,
and in general, robbing the lowly, contemptible barbarians blind,
whilst writing letters to the Emperor complaining how ungrateful and troublesome these Goths were.
There was much grumbling and it was only with difficulty that Theodoric maintained control over his people.
But matters deteriorated further when it became apparent that many of the young Gothic men had not turned in all their weapons at the border as agreed, and retaliated by killing an obnoxious Roman functionary or two and looting a grain Warehouse while they were at it.
Next thing you know there’s a rampaging Gothic Horde on the loose
within the Empires borders, leading to a series of pitched bloody battles and Unfortunate Events that changed the course of European History forever.
Soon the Western half of the Roman Empire was the Gothic Empire,and several other promising, emerging Tribal Confederations
are thinking of pursuing a similarly aggressive business plan. The Vandals will begin their long trek to find somewhere warm under an African sun, the Franks are already starting to act snooty and french and about the only thing everyone in Europe agrees on is how barbaric the Huns are.
But these turbulent reflections are a world away
from the placid waters of my pond,
on whose mirror surface I can see myself reflected,
and through which now pokes the pig-like snout
and the curious, calm, yet somehow smiling,
jet & golden eyes of my gentle, reptile companion.
The Reverend Hellfire is a practised Performance Poet,
strangely President of the Kurilpa Institute of Creativity Inc.,
and an ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanism
AND the Church of the Universe.
He is but a Jellyfish upon the Tides of Life.