- Vol. 01
- Chapter 11
I said, Look at me,
straight into the lens
but she couldn't,
her attention wandered
constantly. I almost
asked, after he'd gone,
taken the dog for a walk.
But when she thanked
me, shook my hand, then
she looked me in the eye
and I understood. We do
the best we can.
For my first birthday, I was given a silver rattle, with my name and birthday on it.
For my second birthday, I was given a teddy called Sam, and two new books.
For my third birthday, there was a pirate outfit, which I did not take off until I was Four. Then there was a set of toy cars, which I loved.
And a checked coat when I was five, I think, that my mother made for me.
When I was six, she took me to a wild, overgrown park full of stones. And said,
Your grandfather is here: and when I was seven, I went back again to say Hi.
When I was eight, I wanted a party in MacDonalds, but she said no,
And nine, was the year of the Complete Children’s Encyclopedia.
I knew everything by the time I was ten – double figures, they said:
Now you’re almost a grown up. When I was eleven, I found out before the day
That I was getting a puppy. Sarah, that’s what I called her, had the longest ears of any dog you’ve ever seen. She was one when I was twelve, we shared the cake, 112.
I got my first trip to London, when I was thirteen, to see Phantom of the Opera
Even though what I wanted was hair straighteners, so I could look more like
My little sister, who everyone loved.
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They don’t love me,
The one combing my hair,
she and he, so smartly dressed,
hoping I may win a prize.
But I won’t, you know/
They’ll see the anxiety in her eyes,
and somehow they’ll know.
And she, she still stammers with the aftershocks of bombs.
These things can coat a life.
Last night, over curry and menthol cigarettes, they made the plans.
Discussing what time to leave, and how much leeway
to give the traffic.
There’s a lot of money riding on this.
They were up early, earlier than usual.
The day misty, the sun just barely puffing through the cold.
He’s had me three years; she came into our lives two years ago.
There’s so much hope riding on this.
Too much hope you know, I want to tell them that.
But no-one’s listening.
- It rakes just across the neck and for a moment and I can feel the furs yawn and stretch across my back. It's a delicious feeling and the fear of the crowd flits away.
- In-between fights on the street, I can feel my atavism melt away like a pill on the tongue - creating new sensations, new thoughts to the point I get lost in them. I barely see other dogs anymore. Just these aliens waddling slowly on two legs whilst I wait for them to catch up. Those beautiful humans. They have moulded me into their shape. I should be grateful.
I mean, we'll never know if the look in the dog's eyes is a forlorn plea to the world to release it to the fields where it can pin and tear a rabbit without being called a criminal, but I'd be in the wrong business. I don't think the Pet Shop would appreciate the copy.
You really really loved the fabric.
Tell me the words that yesterday barked
like a promise with a shoulder pad
like an eyebrow on the promised land.
I feel your ribs.
You comb my dog's heart.
Our love is the opposite of a gesture.
Weak or tender, not aloud.
She presented herself to him in the living room.
But he didn’t look up.
He was busy fluffing up the hair around Angelina’s paws.
He used a special brush for this, one with soft horse hair bristles and a mother of pearl handle.
An expensive and extravagant trinket for a dog, she’d always thought.
“She looks nice” she said.
He looked up then, a little startled, as if only now aware of her presence.
A small smile unfurled at the corner of his mouth and he released a little sigh of satisfaction.
“Attention to detail Sarah” he explained “That’s what distinguishes the winners from the losers.”
She thought about that.
She’d been a winner once herself.
Back in the day, Jerry had been quite a prize, the one all the girls wanted.
She had strutted like a beauty queen when she nabbed him, relishing the jealous stares thrown at her every time they walked down the street.
Such fuss over details was beyond her.
The dog endured his nuances of touch that signalled waiting atop tables, the waft of shampooed fur, and yaps of other competitors. Worse, though, were the stranger's hands that evaluated strength and shine.
If rewarded with a rosette, he was assured of their progress.
You see, the fact is, there’s a rumour in this world that there’s this mutual thing going on, but I’m the only one with any self-awareness around here. Okay – maybe, just maybe - she has a little – sometimes. But you – ah, what to say? – look at yourself. Instead of looking at me, look in the mirror. Not the check, not the knot, no, not the lapels, not the hair – just look at you and tell me what you see. Get naked, like I’m naked, and do the thinking thing. Don’t go thinking about what she’s thinking or the others are thinking. Just look, hold your reflection, and do your thinking. What do you see? Put the brush down first. Forget all that dog stuff – go on, it’s just you as a human person and you as a guy with thoughts. Ah, stop the shrugging. Come on, how difficult is this? Look at her then – you could learn a lot from that face. From me, you’ll learn nothing – you’re too busy imposing to get anyway near learning anything from me. Ah, I mean – why – ah, what the heck. I give up. I’m through with you. I’m through with you all over my inside. I’ll be doing this again next month and the month after that, but the judges are going to see something new when they look in my eyes and they’re not going to like it one little bit.
on the grooming-table.
I can feel that sizzly old
my ears right down to
those frilly skirts they give me.
Ouch. I think my legs are fine
as they are, but there you go.
You know what they say,
how these people come to
look like us? They’re both
primped, too, all fluffed up
for the judges. His mind’s
on the job, don’t know
what’s got into her. It must
be something in the breed.
They’re notoriously moody
and so unpredictable.
Remember that Cat Steven’s song?
You played it non-stop on the trip
to Brighton for your birthday in 1967.
Your mum had given you his new album,
‘Matthew and Son’.
We parked the Ford Zephyr on the sea front
then walked to the pier.
We screamed on the ghost train,
ate plates of whelks and chips,
then sat on the beach til the sun went down.
It was a quiet drive home - you couldn’t
find the Cat Steven’s tape.
I gazed out the window smiling,
as I pictured it surfing the waves.
I smell of lavender and oil of rose.
It hangs in the air offends my nose.
I look like some parody my grandfather would snarl at
Then toss in his jaws to the ditch.
My shame overpowers me.
I dimly recall the feel of snow between my paws
A distant memory.
The thrill, the shot, the whistle, the chase.
The smell of fresh blood dripping from my jaws
Ruby red and thick.
I will make you pay Cruella Deville
I may look resigned to my fate
Your evil eyes do not scare me
I am biding time.
In all the dog shows in all the world
you had to walk into mine.
You administer the brush
the gel and the treats.
I follow you around the 1950s
the 60s and the 70s agog.
My God, you are a distraction-
I feel cold but necessary to you.
But without you and Fido
what would I be?
You and he
are prettier than me.
… Roger? and … Rover?... and me,
But if I could choose to be somewhere else,
I’d go for wine in the refreshment marquee.
It's the County's annual dog show,
And this awful mutt has just won,
So I have to stand and be photographed
And pretend that I’m having fun.
Now you didn’t hear that, did you?... Roger?
It's clear Rover's your great pride and joy,
And I know that I have to keep a straight face,
Which is why I’m looking so coy.
I'm only here because Daddy
Is on duty as local Mayor,
So here we are in the paper – all three -
With our fashionably fuzzy hair.
“So you hang out with dogs all day and you get paid for it? Sounds like a dream!”
And sure, there were benefits besides the money. Margaret enjoyed the feeling of eyes on her as she guided the dog in front of the judges. Perfect posture. Head held high. She felt her own body straightening under the judges’ hands as they checked the dog. She swelled with pride when her dog, Lacey, was named Best in Show.
None of her success mattered when her brother Pete decided to rejoin the family business. Now, Pete would hold the leash and have final say on the dog’s appearance. She hated how he spent hours fluffing out Lacey’s paws, making her body look like it rested on bowls. Pete was flashier and more charismatic. Each night at family dinner, he spoke endlessly of changes that they should make in their strategy, even suggesting they change Lacey’s name to something “more memorable.” He said they should hire some employees, branch out into different breeds, and their parents nodded like their heads might fall off, because finally their son was involved. This business, the family business, had always been for him.
She should have quit. She should have tried to find another job — but no! Why should she have to change her entire life because Pete decided this mattered to him after all those years away?
than those stupid retro throwbacks.
I mean to say Messieurs and Mesdames.
Just take a butchers.
(Well I am fit as a butcher’s dog).
At my luxuriant silky coat,
coiffured to an inch of my taut lithe body.
Ears pricked and groomed.
Eyes on alert for les chiennes.
They are so chic and elegant
and strut their stuff.
with owners who actually look the part.
Seriously who could believe,
moi belonged to them.
I long for Audrey Tatou with her artless style
and gamin gallic charm.
Camille Lacourt who I would splash
about with – any time, any place
Just name the doggy pool.
Instead I am stuck
with bad hair days anonymous
and if I don’t receive a best in show.
I will take a bite out of their derrieres.
Just see if I don’t – And excuse me
I couldn’t care a bonio if this is Crufts.
There was no drama, the dog was never kicked out of the house, as the wife never got pregnant. In fact, he wouldn't even look at her, let alone touch her. They were my parents' age, and they had always been together. “Poor old Claire”, my mother used to say. Claire always gazed into the void, and Don was always proud of his wonderful painting, acquired at the last auction, his elegant car, his well-groomed dog. That's the way he put it: we had abandoned the ideal of beauty, and that was a crime. Make everything around you beautiful and you will merge with that environment you have painstakingly created. Yet another monomania, I thought.
But pride was never beautiful, as you could never fill the world with just one thing. And things keep moving, and Don struggles to keep things the way they were, collecting objects, regretting youth, adoring all things eternal, speaking a language crystallised by an institution which has remained unquestioned for centuries, trying to teach us all to think in a world that no longer exists, if it ever existed at all.
And Claire? Claire is no victim. I will have none of that “Poor old Claire”. She sits there, quiet, rolling one after the other, perfectly symmetrical cigarettes, which she aligns, before placing them in her cigarette case, a beautiful ivory-sculpted case Don gave her for their last anniversary.
No, there is no “Poor old Claire”, just as Don's world is obscene.
And don't you even dare ask me if it ever crossed my mind to consider Ponto's point of view. I have an entire species to worry about first. But I'll do you a small favour and give the dog a new name. Let's call the wretched soul “Pity”.
Where did so much of hair and hairiness go? And where is the tidiness gone? How couldn't we ever bloody guess. In communion with animalism, we felt safe and wild; we sought shelter from the brewing storm on our dry riverbeds. And then the waters rose and a flood carried us away.
Now it's a binary chromatic situation and it looks peaceful. We are becoming mannered. The becoming is a transition I don't admire any longer. Why can't we not-become? Why can't it be still for a moment?
It is now still for a moment. It is now. It is now. Is it now.
so I played jazz to the dog.
Those tomatoes - they were Baroque,
Baroque and Baroll, but this dog -
he ain't got no Bach, but he got howl -
he's a jazz dog!
He's a three-am-bar dog, whisky sours
until that hot dawn comes pulling
at your heels doing the beat
with those daring-flared shoes.
That's why he won -
he's a pizzazzy pijazz hound.
And you know, Gerald,
You can't live your life through a dog.
That's called being vicarious.
Now come and help polish the trophy cabinet.
Beeswax duster and a head tilt
from those floppy ears
and a look in the eyes
like a hundred years
Yeah, he's a jazz hound.
He's a jazz dog.
scraps of kodak paper
pictures and dates.
mom and dad and paul and even then mom
was thinking of leaving the former leaving with the latter
leaving for the west.
three with american hair big as
their american dreams pulling them apart.
To stand here feeling every stroke he lovingly administers to the love of his life, my heart aches for to feel what she feels.
To see the look in his eyes as he bathes her, combs here, dotes on her every need, what I would give for him to love me so.
If they only knew my silence.
I stand behind him waiting. My collar chokes me while his love's caresses her. My leash bites while hers, soft and supple is her life line. I dare never to question or ask as she does. I keep my eyes lowered and my stance placid. It is not my place to show pride for his approval and attention.
Do they see what I strive to hide?
Perhaps in time I shall win his attention and admiration. Who knows, one day I may make him proud enough to show such loving care at my grooming. In time...
If only I had a coat over my skin to please him.
Perhaps then I might be granted his bed to share and see my cage left bare.
If only they knew who was his love and who was his pet.
his spaniel’s head
(her name’s Rita)
as he brushes her,
the way he draws
so my breath
to come in.
Bad hair days reached epidemic proportions as crazy coiffeurs ran amuck.
With a botched bouffant here and troubled tresses there cranial catastrophes reached crisis point.
They left mayhem and a melange of unmanageable mop tops everywhere.
It was hairdresser hell at the okay chorale as a veritable dog's dinner of maniacal manes were let loose on the unsuspecting public.
Bonces with bounce reached epidemic proportions.
Something for the weekend?
Either that or try wearing a cap!
Protect and survive. Protect and survive.
"Yes I do." I replied in equally candid tones.
"Do you think?"
"Yes, I, do!" My voice rising to a sibilant hiss.
I carried on combing Bruce. Estelle locked tight to me keeping as close as she could resumed fretting over the situation. Her hands were in constant motion in contradiction to the stillness of the rest of her. Her face pinched in apprehension and thought. Her shoulders held back and down forcing pressure on her neck. She would have a headache later. Her fingers expressed the only visible animation as they kept winding around themselves.
“I'm OK, deliberately didn't comb mine this morning as I knew this would happen. I could probably get away with it.”
“Oh, it's, all, my, fault, is, it!”
“Yes, it, is! You did insist, saying it would save us £40.”
Estelle stayed fixed in place daring not to move for fear of attracting more attention. Imagining the stillness would make her invisible to those around them. Her hands continued to express her unease. At times squeezing themselves so hard that the blood was forced from them and they turned white, the pink ends of the fingers marking where the blood had been pushed to the ends.
“God I can't bear this.”
“You have to, we will be here all day, you have to ignore it and breeze through.”
“I want to run out.”
“And let them win.”
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one gave up life for the other;
ah, love you are peculiar indeed.
Dog-shows, polo matches, horse racing - kept him company.
Never spared him dignity, did she? Not even in pictures.
Flirting; furtive glances; those little, scurrying hands.
Talk of the town.
And then one day, he was found dead. A few hours after his dog won the dog show.
As if a life of shows, of make-up, of hoping to be the best, of smiling for the cameras, could prove that everything was OK.
As if the dog were the child.
'Pearl', I said firmly (but quaking inside) 'You must choose between us. On the one hand there is Otilee and myself - the pair whom you professed to love for ever. Or you may decide to opt for this mysterious Clive, your unprincipled, smart-ass new lover. However, if you choose him you can kiss goodbye to this gorgeous silky-haired lady. She will stay with me!'
The shouting, screaming and berating me took it's toll on us. Poor Otilee looked bewildered and unhappy. I slept on the sofa, near her basket, whilst Pearl flounced off to our bed, flinging clothes into her suitcase.
This morning we bathed our 'baby' in complete silence.Not one word, or a yelp, was exchanged.I packed the necessary requirements. Quietly, we left the apartment and I hailed a taxi. The air was thick with tension and wafts of patchouli oil (Pearls', not Otilees')
So here we are, groomed and nervous in this hotbed of canine and human expectancy. I am keeping my eyes on a subdued dog ,whilst Pearl stands behind me, seemingly reluctant to take part.
My thoughts keep turning to this Clive character. Who is he? Is he wealthy? Is he good in the sack? How long has he been in the picture?
The room has become hushed. Someone is striding towards us. He looks at Pearl and winks. She blushes and looks away. Realization hits me like an sudden stomach ache. He is the top judge! His word is final.
He is also the reason for those seedy assignations. I feel as though my neck is in a noose, with my new tie and starchy shirt. Don't faint I tell myself.
Clive thoroughly checks Otilee over, then presents me with a large Best In Show certificate.
'A truly beautiful bitch' he smirks.
'So is yours' I shout as they walk away together.'But watch her - she's not a very faithful one!'
the heavy sighing of bristles,
the chequer board uniform,
straight lines, wavy lines
it's just a monochrome veneer.
When you ponder on your day
searching deep with a desire
When you close your eyes
who do you see ?
I hate this decade.
Let me reiterate –
I hate this decade.
I am no simple-minded
believer in the Whig story
of never-ending progress;
I know there is back
as well as forward.
But still, for the love of Anubis,
look at me – look at us!
Style dissipated into a marker
that says aesthetic leprosy lives here.
God dammit, the future can’t
arrive quickly enough.
At least these excesses will be forgiven.
But right now, this decade –
And say I was a lioness,
In a hatless summer
When all eyes would turn towards us.
Then he saw me wake up,
Tangled, greasy and stale with sweat,
One October morning,
Before the shampoo and hairbrush.
Now he has a new pet
And parades it before his friends.
It is tame and trusting.
Where could he have put the scissors?
He brushed and combed
his hair, then hers, I did mine;
what else could I do?
Three of us left hell that day
but only one of us wanted to
return. Only one of us smiled;
two of us disobeyed orders.
We were the perfect three;
perfectly showy, perfectly
perfect but all cracked and
bruised and broken. Two of us
knew, the higher the podium
and the taller the pedestal, the
deeper the pain, the grander
the lies. Three of us stood
there that day, but two of us
needed to be free. Sometimes,
to be free, someone has to die,
so one of us had to leave.
The ride home is a solemn one. I sit in the passenger seat saying nothing while he drives erratically, evidently cheesed off because for the first time in years, his dog wasn't even placed fourth or fifth. The highest award it's won is bronze, but this year it never came close; no certificate or rosette; not even a badge for taking part. The whole day has been a complete waste and when I get home there will be no time for relaxing because the house needs cleaning, the washing up from this morning was left undone and there is laundry and ironing to sort out. "There's always next year, I suppose," he says, trying to convince himself rather than me. I, on the other hand, say nothing; why? Because I have other things on my mind; housework and domestic drudgery mainly. But I'm also planning my evening in front of the television; The Generation Game, Dr Who and of course the new series of The Professionals starts tonight. That Lewis Collins - what a dish.
so bruised from the restraining collar,
he had clipped and pinned her to the table so roughly,
running the smooth back of the brush over her,
head to tail,
turning it over to tease out,
a mouth breather normally he would keep his lips tight,
his grip gentle yet firm,
the lingering smell of body odour clinging to his shirt,
concentrating far too much on the ears
Such a pampered pooch,
Well fed, Well groomed,
Want for nothing.
Or So they think,
Am I ungrateful to want more?
To tell you the truth
I'm bored to the core,
No play mates, no fun,
Just prize after prize
That I have won.
But I don't care,
I do it for them.
What do I get in return?
The occasional bone,
Or a collar with a gem.
I'd jack it all in tomorrow
If I had the chance.
To be free,
To run like other dogs,
Chase cats and roll on the grass.
But no all I can do is dream.
It's a hard life.
New Wave today is so passé, fingers clipped ‘round bottles of possibly we shared a dream
believing in passing trains with promises of talking to tall strangers and being captured inside their breath like stage performers
thrashing at the newborn youth raging in the front row – reed arms a crossword of three across four down; take me take me
our world is where the news melts and eyes head bang, crisp as a flute
it’s true ideas can be not so safely forgotten
rolled over to discard the grit, making way for jaunts in spring and climbing dogs over cot walls and
put to bed, tied safely up, in the memories of the dead,
but I was once in that row, my body eagled up the sweat, sound drowned by tomorrow’s nonchalance
don’t let me go to sleep yet, Indochine cut and pasted on the cusp