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Location: Norwich Market, Market Place, Norwich, NR2 1ND

Map showing location of Norwich Market

Inspired by images of rabbits in medieval marginalia, particular the illuminations in the Gorleston Psalter, this poem takes the idea of a topsy-turvy carnival world, and pairs this with the long history of Norwich market, which has been on this site since the 11th century.

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The rabbits are running the market. 
In pairs they sell apples, lean on barrels
of salt and name their prices, shout shoes
and spices into the ambling crowd. 

The rabbits have taken a break from knighting
and organ-playing to make an honest living. 
They spin yarns of wool and words, 
telling other vendors of their topsy-turvy

adventures. At this market, no one sells
rabbit feet, and any stew that smells too 
familiar is poured off to run down the market’s
hill and pool at the feet of the year-round

butchers. The rabbits sell herbs and spoons,
but they led the chickens and calves and sheep
in a procession through the streets, past the castle
and the toll house and the market cross, 

letting them out beyond the city walls. 
The rabbits cause mischief by letting
itinerant traders into the boundary 
and tripping up tax men as they try to collect

on the impermanent draper dragging his cloth 
on a cart past the tavern near St Giles Church. 
The rabbits tell the tanners they need to move
upstream and upwind, and squeak and cheer

when they do. Two rabbits take up needling
and one decides to become an ironmonger. 
In here, the rabbits lay down their weapons;
it would not to do to behead the king at market

even if there was a king nearby to behead. 
They’d save that trick for a nastier day, 
content for now to dispense with the butchery
of the market square. 

It’s too late to liberate the herring, 
salted and layered in barrels above the well, 
and the eels are as slippery in death 
as life, sliding down human throats before

they’re even cold. But the rabbits find the man who made
the stew and stand him by the market cross.
They let the boys punished for scrumping throw apples
at his feet and ring bells. 

As the sun sets the rabbits’ eyes start to sparkle
and the air begins to smell like ale
and everyone around the stalls begins to wonder
what will happen if the rabbits refuse to give up their play.

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Go to Norwich Guildhall for poem 7: City of Norwich coat of arms planning meeting