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Pascale Petit: a poem

Photograph by Biplap Hazra

Prize Photograph

And this wild elephant, crossing State Highway 9 –

his footprints lakes for dragonflies and bees –

does not yet know the chaff of a howdah,

ankle chains, or the sting of the bull hook.

His mother is ahead, her ears flapping

for his rumbles that she also feels through her feet.

Only now her feet are burning, and she's

closed her ears to the firecrackers, the jeers

of the mob protecting their fields. Already

one farmer has hung himself when his crop

and home were trampled – how could he feed his family?

And one woman has been crushed to death.

The men lob tar firebombs at the invaders –

go back jungli haathi! they shout, banging

on tin drums. The matriarch runs from the noise,

doesn't hear her calf scream, his back legs alight.

Hell is now and here the caption will say

as Biplap Hazra clicks the shot of his life.

Pascale’s eighth collection, Tiger Girl, published by Bloodaxe in 2020, won an RSL Literature  Matters Award while in progress. Her seventh collection Mama Amazonica, published by Bloodaxe in 2017, won the Royal Society of Literature’s 2018 Ondaatje Prize. Four of Pascale’s earlier collections were shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. In 2018 she was appointed as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

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