Olive Senior

Image by Caroline Forbes

Peacock Tale 2


The navy from Tarshish arrives with gold and silver,
ivory, apes, and Peacock, with his hundred eyes.

King Solomon brings his children and his hundred wives.
Stretching a mile or so long, they line up on the wharf

to view the strange barbaric throng. Peacock assumes
the reception is for him and almost manages a song.

Peahen, ignored by everyone, dutifully following in his
rhythm, carries the suitcases and a flagon of

smelling salts. Peacock marches up and down and struts
his stuff and preens. Until he fluffs his tail and careens

to the limit of his pride. It is then that Peahen rushes
to his side and hisses in her quiet voice: “Feet! Feet!”

Peacock, as if stung, whimpers and in retreat lowers
his head in shame. Pride falls like his eyes to the ground

and his ugly black feet. Peahen unstoppers the smelling
salts and delivers it neat. Peahen does not consider

herself cruel, or, as some would have it, consumed by
jealousy. Oh no, she says, it’s just that a woman’s got to

protect the one who puts bread on the table, even from
himself. Nobody looking at him (she says) would suppose

his brain to be the size of a pea, his head so light, all that
arrests his fancy, or even more permanent flight is his

wife – me – having to remind him every time, of those ugly
black feet. The only thing that keeps him grounded – and in line.

from Over the Roofs of the World (Insomniac Press, 2005), copyright© Olive Senior 2005, used by permission of the author and the publisher.


Olive Senior

Olive Senior Reading from her Poems


2Rejected Text for a Tourist Brochure

3Leaving Home



6The Birth of Islands

7The Secret of Flying Close to the Sun Without Melting Wings

8Peacock Tale 2



11Guinea Hen

12The Pull of Birds

13Meditation on Red

14Hurricane Story 1904

15Hurricane Story 1988





20Bamboo 4

21Brief Lives

22My Father's Blue Plantation

23Meditation on Yellow



26Garden Snail


28Join the Dots


30A Superficial Reading

31Colonial Girls School

32Birdshooting Season

33Hurricane Watch

34Dead Straight