Leonardo in the market place
Catches sight of a row of caged birds
In a frenzied row
Tweeting as if obliged
To share a song and thirst
For better life to come
Beyond the confines of this
Their cruel capture
He walks among them mesmerised
Not appalled really, but amazed
At the sheer profundity of their cries
That recall not torture
Yet visited on man with all his
Capacities for insight.

And so he spies their captors
In the dusty marketplace
Under the Duomo
A layer of dirt
Clouding his judgment
And seeks out what seems to be
Their leader, an aged gentleman
Who, long-endured from town to town
The frenzied cries of all the many
Inured to what he has heard
And smelt and touched
Principled in many respects
Performs services uncalled for
Honours his daughters
Providing healthy dowries
To take into their market place
And three fine sons alive
Counting on the benches
Not usurers really
But offering service
To ease commerce

Leonardo seeing all this
Staggers and imagines each bird
Counts their blessings and realises
In a flash of inspiration
The precise possibilities of flight
Joyfully he greets the man
Whose eyes darkly consider
This grey presence whose fame
Now has spread beyond
Even Italy’s highways
This curious figure who, it is said
Breaks all conventions giving
Vent to passions wild and unusual
But a great man it is clear
Even he knew that
And assumed great wealth too.

Suddenly Leonardo took from his pocket
All the ducats he could muster
Not caring to enquire how many
But a frenzied handful
Sexual in his disregard
Passion’s play awakened
He pressed the sum into the hand
Of the man who could hardly
Refuse so great a weight
And then the artist cried
‘I wish to buy them all
Each and every one and cages too’.

Respectfully the deal was done
Leonardo passed by each cage
Opening them all he allowed
All a freedom
They gladly soared beyond
Their caged-lives
And the cages his attendants
Gathered in succession.

Stillness fell upon the market place
The dust settling
The artist in a daze
Amazed at the inspiration
Of his boundless empathy
He entered the celestial realm
Of his soaring imagination
And found a freedom untold
A god-awoken realisation
A helicopter day brimming
With a delight he could hardly
Understand how his vision could
Centuries henceforth descend
From the idea of a rescue
Of walkers lost on mountain tops
Becoming instead a gun ship
Astride the jungle spouting fire
Or drenching crops with pestilence
How could man murder imagination?
A vision of freedom repelled
By the vile torturers
Counting on the benches
Becoming ecocide.

(Listen on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/frank-armstrong-649911741/leonardos-helicopter-day)

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