The Thirteen O’Clock News

by Daljit Nagra

Pip Pip, today’s feature for Monarchy Month is the first
Indian knighted, in 1842. His name is Sahib Jamsetjee
Jeejeebhoy. But why was a Queen keen to knight a native?

The answer lies with the man in a red ‘phone-box’,
the Arch Liberator, the Truth-Sleuth, you know him
as every lady’s Tonk-Honker: Johhhn Simpsonian!!!

O John Simpsonian, do you Zoom Boom for us?
Pip Pip… our connection is scrambling… I’ll be brief…
This self-made good chap had a chequered mid-life…

It seems that in Opium Wartime Jeejeebhoy ran
the speediest clippers bound for China… As you see,
I’ve landed at the port… at the Yangtze Gorge…

Those hordes of mango wood boxes are Jamsetjee’s…
And the men with machetes are unloading each box
with brown balls inside as big as a comely lady’s breast…

O John Simpsonian, through gyres and galaxies,
you’re the boldest Zoom Boomer! If I may sum up,
in this dim droopy night… the love-sick mass of men

lined along the bank… as though a whole nation
of John Chinamen and Shangrilanders sleepwalking
for a toke, a cut, a suck of the dream of empire…