Parliament of Fowls
(after Chaucer)

Parliament of Fowls

Hear us, O Nature, in your role as Chair
Of this unruly Parliament of Fowls.
You hold the prize, and all are gathered here
From sharp-beaked hawks to fatalistic owls
And chattering magpies; hear the shrieks and howls
Of gaudy peacocks and of mocking jays
And cast your eye to where the small fry graze –

Worm-eaters, seed-eaters, robins, wrens and sparrows,
And all alone, the gentle turtle dove
On a green branch, dodging the poisoned arrows,
Symbol of peace, holding herself above
Point-scoring argument, the push and shove
Of lobby fodder, whether of ‘No’s’ or ‘Aye’s’ –
All to determine who will win the prize:

The lovely Europe, perched on Nature’s hand,
Variously feathered, sometimes in blue with gold
Stars in a perfect circle, sometimes fanned
Showing the flags of many nations stowed
Under her wings.  But one she cannot fold
Neatly away, as mother hen her chicks,
The dis-United Kingdom screams and kicks.

England wants out, but Scotland would stay in;
Ulster’s afraid that Ireland will annexe it;
Wales is more concerned with who will win
At Cardiff Arms Park, than with Brexit.
One recommends a deal, another wrecks it,
Their representatives all twittering and tweeting
Cannot decide, so call another meeting.

Nature decrees the song-thrush shall speak first.
Turdus mellifluous rises to her feet
To sing the only song she has rehearsed:
‘Brexit means Brexit’. Quacking and hissing greet
Her cryptic words as she resumes her seat.
Perched on the fence the grey and grizzled crow
Watches to see which way the wind will blow.

Next to be called, the yellow-crested budgie
Squawks ‘England for England, Eton and St George!
‘Death to the EU! – Pluck her! Stuff her with dodgy
‘cucumbers, bananas, make her disgorge
‘our millions, so that I can build my bridge
‘over the Thames…   What’s that?  The NHS?
‘Oh did I?...  I’d forgotten, I confess’.

The wise and worthy Father of the House,
The royal eagle from his Rushy Cliff,
Was next to speak: ‘Surely a petty grouse
About bananas or allowances of fish
Is no grounds for divorce? Why let a tiff
Or two create a separation
Between the lovely Europe and our nation?

At this a flapping of wings and order papers,
A cawing and cackling, crowing and hooting rose.
The budgie and his cronies shouting ‘Traitor!’;
Leaderless corvids split, exchanging blows.
Only the gentle dove remains composed.
Turdus checks her notes – what to say next? It
Surely can’t be…?  Yes:     You’ve guessed it!

Then Nature rose, cried ‘ORDER’, banged his gavel
‘Remain or leave - let each one cast their vote:
‘Deal or no deal to ravel or unravel
‘Links with the lovely Europe’.  Who then spoke:
‘So sorry, friends, for sounding a bum note
 ‘But it takes two to tango, and my chicks
All twenty eight, may well not want to mix

With your cantankerous lot. So give me time
To ponder and consult.  Six months, let’s say.
Meanwhile, for God’s sake make up your mind
Whether you want to leave or want to stay
Under my wings. With that, she flew away.
Nature, abashed, announced a short recess:
Time for reflection (and a feathering of nests).

All left save one, wondering at these fools
Flirting with Europe while the nation’s health
Has run to fat, and underfunded schools
Struggle, while inequalities of wealth
Widen unchecked…  And worst of all, stealthily
Climate is changing and the point of no return
Is perilously close: life ends when planets burn.

She sees no point in squabbling over Brexit
When all of us are heading for the exit.

Jill Boucher

If you have any thoughts on this poem, Jill Boucher  would be pleased to hear them.