• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 08

The Courser’s Tale

The weight of a small boulder is similar
to that of a dead dog. I have carried both.

You would think the boulder the heavier,
but you would be wrong, even for a whippet.

It depends on how much you loved the dog
but this is not important in the end;

what matters is how much the dog loved you.
How simple life is for lurcher or basenji –

find a voice, a scent, and dedicate your life to both.
Finding purpose, harder for a man:

first, cut out your heart and place it
in the aviary you have fashioned from the rib-

cage of an owl, then carry it, draped in hessian –
for the heart used to darkness startles easily –

to the lichen-orange rocks that hide the source
of your blood and release it.

Let it circle in the water-scented air until,
lost from sight, it makes its way home,

or slows its beat and drops, light as a finch,
into the braided stream to be discovered

by a man out walking, next to a submerged rock,
or a too-slow hound.



The picture had been his idea.
She had always hated it.
He seemed to think it the height of sophistication.
To have placed himself and their various pets into a faux ye olde picture and been clever enough to include a reference to the raven.
Which he seemed to think he needed to explain.
"The raven
himself is hoarse ..."
Yes she got the reference.
He had grinned like a boy when he showed it to her.
She had kept her comments to a minimum.
He hadn’t noticed her dislike.
And then he had it framed. And placed it in the hallway.
So that it was always commented on as people entered the house.
But somehow she always seemed to have to answer the questions.
Yes, he made it himself. Yes, those are our dogs. Yes those are our cats.
No, we’ve never had caged birds.
It is a raven.
Yes, that is how we met.
Yes, in his English tutorial.
Why sepia?
That was her least favourite question.
Why indeed?
That which is now faded.
She had a sudden desire to smash it.
In the division of assets there had never been a dispute about the picture.
Of course it was his.
Read more >


Artistic Licence

"This is not at all what I was expecting." Irene Molloy looked at Carmichael’s drawing again. "Sepia, you said? You didn’t consider … oh, I don’t know … colour?"

"No, boss." Carmichael shook his head vehemently. "It would have been too … harsh, I think. Yes, harsh would be the word I’d choose."

"Too harsh?" She held it up for the others. "What do you two think?"

"Well, boss, I like it." That was from Stevens, of course. Always challenging her authority. She made a note to finally do something about him.

O'Neill just looked down at his highly polished police-issue shoes.

"Far be it from me to get picky," Molloy said, turning back to Carmichael, "but of what use is it to us?"

"What don’t you like about it?" asked Carmichael. "Specifically?"

"Specifically?" The word came shooting out of Molloy’s mouth like a bullet. She pulled down the sides of her police skirt, annoyed at how tight it was. "I gave you specific instructions and you have specifically ignored them. That’s what I don’t like. Specifically."

Carmichael took off his police cap and began cleaning the hard brim with the sleeve of his navy jacket.

"So," continued Molloy, "we’re meant to find Phineas Parsons, Bird and Dog Fancier," she waved the drawing in the air angrily, "in a crowd of people… using this? You’ve got to be joking. I wanted detail, Carmichael! To identify him! Scars, the colour of his hair and eyes, missing teeth, tattoos. Anything but a softened sepia portrait that his family would be proud to hang above their bloody mantelpiece."

Read more >

And we shall name the beast Harold

Find an empty room and
fill it with animals: dogs, cats, I don't know,
salamander, and when

you think there are too many,
find smaller animals, like fleas or worms
or improv comics, and

close the door. Leave for a while, the
minimum recommended time is several thousand
years, and when you return

and open the door, all will have
converged, all will be one mass of legs and
arms and eyes and

bippety-bops, all seeking to
be expelled from the room in one gasping
mass, to move out

into the world, and there
to dwell, seating on the grass, tails wagging
in wind, every yes met

with an and.


Call Me a Dandy

These three, my favourite,
naked species—
physically, emotionally.

They satisfy sepia aesthetics—
are what they are.
Isn’t that how we simplify life?

Eat, sleep, play.
But some species must work;
put bones, milk, crackers in bowls.

It’s the goal,
a fortunate life,
when passion becomes profession.

Call me a dandy, if you wish.
I fancy a refined evolution—
the best of science and nature

canine, feline, avian,
in all their glorious potential

create income for me,
companionship for others—
all dependent on creature comfort.


The Animal Psychic

My grandpa had an obsession with animals. He believed that cats and dogs were once human. He analyzed each animal that came into the house. He then determined the type of personality they had as a human.

“See that hound; he was a very depressed bookkeeper. Numbers made him so sad that he overindulged in whiskey. And that white cat with the red color. She used to be a very anxious woman who was afraid to leave the house, hid in her bedroom most of the day, and only came downstairs at night for food."

Grandpa's first wife developed severe allergies, and no matter what her doctor prescribed, she was unable to find relief. Leaving my grandfather was the only cure. He made sure that his next wife was pet friendly.


The Pet Store Owners Speaks of Absolute Freedom

"There is only one hierarchy here:
man over animal; pointless to class
dog above cat, cat above bird,
all instinct muted with a cage or a leash.

A pet is an object of submission
just as love is between humans
while successful owners will trick
themselves with ideas of mutual consent,

believing that domesticity
equates to love; but look how simple
it is to get a songbird to sing.
I'll even throw in the feed for free."



Cut and paste a simpler task
(Is that ctrl with x then v?)
than glue and place, as collagen,
the building blocks, wont everyone.

It’s sticker books our Benje likes,
the fun he has (I cannot watch)
in piling layered overlaps,
when I need fit congruent space –
created for an older lad.

The Lamb Tales given, I as six –
part grandpa’s plan, feed genius –
a book I treasured (he so pleased)
for golden script on cover, beige,
(not Elia, Illyria),
for how it looked, and that I owned.

At five was his collation hour,
salami, olives, foreign fare,
flicking through his mother’s scrap,
those dogs and cats, a story bored,
that high-rise screeching cock-a-too,
ribbed whippet (that plate, trembling yet?)
and dopey, that ‘ere floppy hound,
odd misplaced guest, wedding group,
behind a kennel, ladder prop.

Did indigestion harry guts,
the butler overfill her glass
to plan eccentric collage seen,
Read more >


Margaret’s Tuesday Visits

Claude noticed that the same woman
came into the shop every Tuesday
to visit the animals.
She lovingly pet the dogs
on the tops of their heads,
and she gently scratched the cats
under their chins.
The door opened
with a quiet swish,
as Margaret stepped lightly and swiftly
into the fancier’s shop.
She always wore the same lavender scarf.
The animals either recognized her light step,
her scarf, or her floral perfume.
Seconds before Margaret opened the door,
tails wagged with anticipation,
and there was a humming purr
in the room.

Margaret lost her beloved beagle
several years ago.
Although tempted to adopt
another furry companion,
She truly loved all of the animals equally.
Her Tuesday outings gave her a reason
to wear the lavender scarf,
and Claude usually had a cup of tea waiting for her
at precisely 3pm.
Read more >



Three dogs

Two cats

One human

One shop sign intrigue ‘Bird & Dog Fancier’

Two rabbits

A miner bird

Two other animals in cages



Several Points of View

Possible rat

Possible pair of kittens

A collage

A tableau

Un-Randomness made sepia

Like a past a relative forgot to relate to you

Even with all possible regrets

It might win the prize for something

That five-year-old would never compose


And Now for Something Completely Different

Some people ask, "What is your fascination with birds and dogs?"

"The birds, they just sit in their cages mostly motionless, inviting onlookers to guess if they are real or fake. You cannot play with them, or take them on walks, or watch them do tricks. They just sit there."

"And the dogs, they may have their moments, but are they really worth it? How much money do you spend feeding them. How much time do you waste washing and grooming them? They say dogs are a man's best friend, but it seems more like man is a dog's chauffeur or butler."

Some people ask how I can be a fancier of such boring or needy animals.

I guess some people have never seen the way a cat attacks a bird's metal cage. I guess some people have never watched a dog chase after a tabby with the determination of an invading army.

It is not that I fancy birds or dogs. But writing "Fancier of Animals Attacking Each Other" seemed slightly demented. Plus the window decorator charges by the letter.


my own creation

here is a frame of me washed in dirt brown
lacking hands to cherish you,
beyond your gaze or that of any other entity
I’ve created, trapped by fanciful bars,
a well-dressed exoskeleton flaking without sun
to shadow the details.
no more comfort from real-life hues:
ruby-throated hummingbirds,
orange and black patchwork calicos,
the periwinkle hound at my heel.
only pasted-in memories
flat on a sketch of imagined purpose
cropped from time wasted over
crafting the cages.



Does this chained beast
Know its creed
As monumental once as
The owner's breed
As the glacial era thawed
And the hunter-gatherers
Found an ally in a group of
That separated from the pack
And straggled along the
Outer limits of the encampments
Inconspicuous, yet noticeably
Till they became fellow drifters
Until civitas defined them as lesser
And the world got confined as a Man's sphere,
Some got adopted and managed the
Specious transition
Some strayed on the wild side of
A speciation that gave them no prior
Of the impending status change.

As is the case with much of history
A shop front and a bit of aristocracy
Read more >


All Will Come Good

Vaughan didn't much care for Harry, who had even less time for Jane. Jane favoured the indoors but tolerated the pull of the leash, for who can live without outside air? The rain against the wood would lull her to sleep before Vaughan had finished scratching. Always at his hindquarters that one. For the others, what could be said? Petty and dominant in their own ways, if you allowed it. Height advantage only, and levelled in a swipe of a paw. Always huddled around Him, stealing His warmth and kind glances. The birds knew what was best and sang a sorrow even we understood, at dawn and dust: just behave, tolerate the leash for a meal and a night of peace. If you don't sleep through it, all will come good.



Kept in captivity, restrained,
by cages, kennels and chains.
Females in containment:
bitches, mollies, hens and breeders,
charged with procreation.
Incarceration confused with care,
door-keys and leads held fast,
supervised by mediocre males –
life fed just enough, not too much,
groomed to please, fit for purchase
by Mister, their next lucky owner.
Creatures, allowed time to shine
whilst modest under dim lights,
switched on by masculine hands.
One day, these girls will turn,
trash their prison, whirl free
amazed to need no-one
but themselves for ecstasy.
for Sapphic entertainment.


Finnegan’s Non-Shenanigans

Mr. Theodore Barnum Finnegan,
He, the finest Colorado emporium
Did retail, 1892, July on the quartodeciman;
Canine, feline, avian, ophidian specimens,
Sturdy kennels, ornate birdcages/cat baskets;
Not ostentatious, but in metal safe a jewel casket,
Heirloom–Haitian; passed through generations.
A sternly optimistic fellow, doughty for sure –
Neighbourhood philanthropy for the poor –
Descendant of G. Washington by repute, sirree;
Finest 'Bird & Dog Fancier' west of Missouri!


The Whippet

My first and possibly only friend,
fleet of foot and pure of heart.
How mine aches for your return,
down the track of the orchard.

My hands were not strong enough to hold the lead,
when the rabbit appeared on the fringe of the hedgerow.

I’d never catch you up,
not in my wildest dreams.
As your four legs are much faster than my two.

Nowhere to be seen and not a sound to be heard.
I wonder where you could be,
how far you could have gone.

But then, as fast as you disappeared,
you are once again stood in front of me.
Framed by apples in the long deep grass.

Close enough that I can retrieve your lead and mend our bond.
My heart is full and my mind at ease.
But there is still one question unanswered,
what happened to the rabbit?


Hounds of the Battersea Rookery

I have never really been a fancier of fur or feather, which is ironic given my current change in circumstances. See the rather mournful looking hound looking directly at you? That's me, even though my own mother wouldn't recognize me – if she had still been above ground and not pushing up the daisies. Don't know how the slippery little weasel did it. He didn't look dangerous when we knocked on his door and then barged in without waiting for an invite – a mild mannered, weedy young man in an old fashioned suit covered in cat hair.

The other two sorry sons of bitches next to me are my business 'associates.' We were in the collections business, recovering money owed by people stupid enough to borrow money from the city's biggest loan shark. That is how it should have worked anyway. We arrived to do the job and he did not seem at all surprised, or ask for a little more time to pay – almost as if he had been expecting us. The big white cat perched on his shoulder, twined around his neck like a fine lady's fur. It glared at me and gave me the shivers. Mr Atkins had eyes just a little too close together and something unsettling lurked just behind his stare. A long set of fresh claw marks ran down the back of one of his hands as if one of his little darlings had mistaken him for a scratching post.

Jack Flynn always was bone idle, happy to let other people do most of the work while he dozed in the sun – no surprise that, when IT happened, he just closed his eyes and started snoring. Billy Fagan snarled and tried to bite, getting a shorter chain as a result. One minute, we were doing what we were best at, money with menaces, while the man just stood there and smiled. No humour in that smile, brittle as glass and about as genuine as that woman who stopped me in the street last week and said she was Queen Victoria in disguise. Read more >


A vanishing

think of myself a boy fresh
faced startled animal the
future now behind me all
stretched out before so
much longing in my world
which today is fading from
sepia-coloured photographs
into thinning lines I forget
so much my thoughts are
caged birds distracted cats
and dogs chained dreamlessly
asleep not answering my
calls or only when they
wish I were –


Seventh Street

I have heard
You can take your cat to
Seventh Street
And those split hairs
That reflect your sins
And those chipped claws
That hunt through your albums
For a laugh as faded as
Your bottle of rose petals
Will drift away.

I have heard
You can take your dog to
Seventh Street
And that frayed collar
Torn by shards of brandied glass
And the dented name tag
That knocks on your door
In search of a smile as splintered as
Your abalone jewelry box
Will join a rope
Braided from sorrow and
Decorated with bronze.

I have heard
You can take your heart to
Seventh Street
And your cracked nail polish
Speaking of shallow dusk
And your saturated scrunchie
Read more >


What About the Cats?

You said
that you liked two things in life:
Birds and Dogs.

You said
your love for them was like lighting a match
and flinging it into the dark recesses of the forest.

You said
that then, all the trees would light on fire with a whoosh,
and the flames would swallow the trees
and that the light would show you the scared faces of the animals
As the red flower that was fire consumed them.

But then – you said –
No birds or dogs would be touched by the fire
And you would leave the forest just to them.

That was how much you loved
Birds and Dogs.

I asked you why dogs were in the
You ignored me.

That day, you said you were going to get a bird or a dog.
You said you found a shop called “Bird & Dog Fancier”
Where you would get a
Bird or a Dog

You came back
With a sheepish smile

And a cat in your arms.


After Happily Ever After

And now when I have found myself indifferent towards you, stopped measuring myself against your dim affection, you say that you will place me in the foreground. Let me go.

This future which you offer me is fashioned from old memories, brittle cardboard cut-outs abandoned to the rain.

And now that I have learnt from you degrees of separation, you are dogged in your fawning, a slavering silhouette, obeisant as a whipped young hound, too cringing to my catness and my wayward fiery eyes.

You will not cage me in or leash me. I have never had a craving for kenneling or grovelling.

The fading page degenerates in shades of ash and brown.


Bird & Dog Fancier, with a Few Cats Thrown In for Good Measure

"I always fancied that bird," he crowed.
But I said she preferred a good dog,
feline though she was. "Fancy that."
Well, no, I don’t. I prefer small turtles
or guinea pigs—creatures that don’t
require too much attention, that are
happy with the occasional lettuce leaf
and space enough that they need not
lie in their own excrement, as we would,
were it not for civilization. Of course,
civilization is not all it’s cracked up to be,
as every dog, bird, or cat knows—in fact,
the cats have never entirely abandoned
their instincts to rip things raw. Could
we relearn such brutality? I look around.
Perhaps we never left it behind—as she
knows too well, whenever he caws at her.


Cage, Kennel, Home in Times of Pandemic

Our resident animal friends could teach us something about sheltering in place.

Birds come, wings clipped, in cages of metal or bamboo, natural or painted, suspended above the traffic of humankind. Staring through their narrow bars, they cling to a swinging perch, perform miniature circus acts, various feats of agility and balance, feathered trapeze artists swaying above last week’s newsprint.

Certain breeds of birds endowed with vocal prowess give impromptu concerts, crooning melodic riffs like a long-lost flute in the forest, while others do stand-up comedy, spilling secrets overheard in kitchens, front parlors, bedrooms. Accomplished mimics, they blurt out one phrase jokes in someone else’s voice, as if they take no responsibility for the meaning. They blast sirens and channel appliance noises, ready to heckle or applaud themselves should we prove a dull audience.

Dogs come as a multipurpose species with or without documented pedigree, each breed wired for action. They are equipped with slobbery jowls and drooping eyes, with corkscrew or graceful, billowing tails like the Marquis de Sade’s favorite quill or tails that salute, slick and straight rods, an extra digit to alert the hunter, to test the wind, but all tails are a handy Geiger counter of a canine’s shifting emotions.

As we have houses so do our canine companions and roommates. Those who board with us lie on pillows, sofas, armchairs, rugs, or inside kennels crafted as movable abodes. Or they stretch out on decks or porches or lie in cooling mud on the threshold of a miniature house in the backyard.

Read more >

Antique Harbingers

Jake’s pressed against greyed planks of a dilapidated
building like a full-figured cardboard cutout just
staring obliquely at some long-lost phantom lover.

Life surrounds the former veterinarian/animal groomer:
exotic caged birds climb stainless steel horizontal bars,
entertain themselves, mimic oglers, seek flight mid song.

While cats roam freely, perching themselves on step ladders
staring at the miniature aviaries, out of reach from the
perturbed point setter chained to a silhouette’s thin knee.

Other disheveled dogs bark at unrestrained feline fatale,
one glaring at pedestrians, others pouting in boredom,
curled up on the front porch of a once thriving business.

Still the bird & dog fancier looks on unmoved, eternally
fixed like a jaundice photo, highlighting yellow membranes
amid parchment textures, sepia shades, & saffron hues.

Jake & his animals find comfort among the living & the dead,
splintered wood tells their tales, offers weathered sustenance
to flesh & blood supplicants briskly breathing another day.

Their posture’s more than a languishing power pause as
exceptional birds hope for freedom, deified cats lord over all,
& dogs exist eagerly—even when bound—to please everyone.



I no longer have to wait for him to bark

before I head out the door for our walk.

He no longer yanks at the leash

or tries to take off chasing squirrels.

I bask in the pleasure of no longer

having to carry a pooper-scooper

to pick up droppings after him.

He has a perpetual smile on his face

since he knows I’ll never put him down

as I had to do with all my previous dogs.

He still likes to sleep at the foot of my bed,

and, when it gets very quiet at night,

I often hear him laughing in his dreams.

He’s as affectionate as ever, eager

to offer the unconditional love

of the very best friend I ever had.


Something Missing?

This one is actually easy. No need for obtuse lyric poetry or purple prose. Just writing clearly about what is clear to see. The sign says "Bird & Dog Fancier." Yet the majority presence by the side of the subject is feline. Some kittens in cages, as many as the couple of birds. Some cats looking intently to the right as if accusing a negligent someone, who perhaps thinks that three full-sized dogs looking forward (and having a house) are somehow above the widely acknowledged superiority of cats. And on this both Hemingway and T.S. Eliot will back me up.


World in Sepia

A black and white world doesn’t appeal to me with its tones of charcoal smoke smudges and grey blanket skies hanging depressively. Gradients are all well and good, but black has never been my colour, too final with a wreath of connotations. White is too innocent, cold and wintery. I’ve never liked the cold. And off-white is stale milk in a bottle, a turning into the rancid.

The natural medium for me is earthy sepia, seeping nostalgia, the glory days. Sepia oozes warmth, a hangover of summer as autumn slips in with palettes of promise, and like a dog with a bone I am hanging on to that. That’s my world in pictures.

Sepia celebrates beige expanses, cream walls of light to bounce off of, tanned wheat fields, woody concoctions in walnut, mahogany, beech and oak. It’s darker tone of brown is the colour of pecans, almonds and walnuts. Sepia speaks of warming chocolate, latte, mocha, a sprinkling of cinnamon on the lips, a taste of caramel, carob and cocoa, dark and velvety smooth. It is the colour of owls’ feathers, foxes' fur, the coats of dogs, thick and cuddly in copper and nut brown. It is gingerbread on my tongue, the comfort food warming and aromatic, sun-washed skin, fingers driven into earthy soil, and the safe colour of home.

I don’t need gregarious colours with pin spot reds and blues, just sepia in all its shades of driftwood and beach stones. It is a colour to fall into like running through fallen leaves. It is the colour of life.


Animal Carer

In 1895, I found myself in the city missing my family farm so I decided to collect animals for those who could afford pets. It was the first pet shop in my province. Stocked mostly dogs, cats and birds with the occasional lizard.

Some were donated but most were strays that I cleaned up. Couldn’t stand to see them scrounging for scraps and by asking a few pence people valued them more. Took better care of them.

My pets put many a smile on faces of the young or lonely.


Ahmed and Sons Pet Shop

The snake in the birdcage fits neatly
into the aesthetic of the establishment.
Ahmed and Sons Pet Shop, at a street corner
somewhere in Coles Road, is
a family owned business where home is
a flap and a flutter. The cats and dogs spill out
of boxes, and each Ahmed names them lovingly
before tying a green ribbon around their necks.
There is a newspaper cutting on the left wall
with a picture of Ahmed the first in 2002.
It speaks of a fire, and all the Ahmeds, including
Ahmed the third, a girl of only twelve, scrambling to
pick up boxes of colorful chicken,
unspooling the shuddering snake coiled
like a leaf around the warming rails of the birdcage,
and pulling Tasmiya, the cat, away from a burning bird.
Sheru, the terrier always found himself lodged between
small spaces, and it took two Ahmeds to dislodge him.
The newspaper cutout in gold-gilded frame sits at the
center of a large wall in defiant straightness.
In December 2019, a team of ten men with
faces of God-like shine, and saffron stoles around their necks
shake Ahmed the first's bony hands with love. They run
their fingers around the green neck-ribbons of the animals and share a joyful laugh and Ahmed the second's minty lemon sherbet.
When they set fire to the birdcage, the snake is obedient.
All the men bow deeply to all the Ahmeds before stepping out into the cobbled street.
The newspaper cutting folds in like a wiry piece of blanket
and in its humble shadow Tasmiya the cat reaches for the birds.


The Unfortunate Tail or Cousin Oscar Cocks A Snook

Ah...Now that is Cousin Oscar. He would be your second cousin, twice removed..? Yes. A rather unfortunate business that. He never quite fitted in. Oh, I don’t think you could call him ‘a black sheep’ exactly, but still...It was all rather unfortunate.

You can see the problem right there, if you look carefully. Do you see what he’s done? Insinuated himself, between the birds and the dogs, with a small entourage of his feline confederates! This photograph was probably taken for proof; I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

He is defying Great Aunt Euphorbia, knowing full well the rage it would elicit. She established her emporium to praise and promote the virtues of both avian and canine species – her life-long loves – but was absolutely adamant she would never admit any, ‘self-serving, hedonistic cats!’

Of course, eventually, the reins had to be passed on and by that time Oscar was her eldest survivor so...Apparently, there was some confusion caused in the early days of his tenure; even a formal complaint made to the arcade’s managers, by a woman with a highly allergic son.

But finally, after negotiation, Oscar had the signs amended...And had the audacity to have the word, ‘CAT’ added, in first place too! He said it was a practical point, but we all knew better; cocking a snook...that’s what it was; intended to set Great Aunt Euphorbia positively spinning.


Forever Home

The bell above the doorway jangles. Bingo barely lifts his head from the floor. Mackerel, Smokey and Leo all turn to look.

It’s that woman again. She drifts into the shop, trailing the smell of freshly cut grass. A waft of cinnamon and citrus. A shawl the colour of toffee lazily draped over her shoulders.

Sunshine and Charlie ruffle their feathers. From his cage behind the counter, Baby lets out an alarmed squawk.

Her hair falls in long dark tendrils over her shoulders. She rests a palm on the top of my head. I stay very still. Her hand is soft, but her eyes are hard.

“Prince! Come.”

I trot over to Mr. Spenlow, who is bristling a little. He smiles.

“Good morning.”

The woman turns her head dolefully towards the cages. “I’ve come to collect Mr. Atkinson’s order. I came to speak to you about them last week?” Something in her syrupy voice tells me she knows Mr. Spenlow remembers her.

“Of course. He arranged payment yesterday.” Mr. Spenlow gestures towards the cages, stacked like tiers on a cake. His eyes take on a sheen of sadness. Baby and Shere Khan are both suddenly very still behind the bars.

“Wonderful.” The woman takes one cage in each hand, and we begin our chorus of crying.

She moves quickly towards the door, her eyes flicking between our sad faces. A current of frustration shudders through her arms.

Read more >

The masters

By their names you shall know them,
pigeon fanciers, hunting enthusiasts,
millers of puppies and kittens.
They are not admirers of beauty,
observers, protectors and guardians,
they are not lovers,
they manipulate, twist to their desires
wing and flight, the set of the ears.
They warp, like the moulders of clay golems,
tie strings, rattle chains,
turn the clockwork keys,
but hearts still beat and break,
and bewilderment weeps
in those gentle eyes.



She rolled up sleeves of her oil-smeared kameez,
let globular chapatti somersault on flat iron pan;

Mama taught us the meaning of “it’s raining cats and
dogs,” long before it indigenized itself on our bilingual,

bipolar tongues. We have since, in our seven-year-old
mysticisms, called upon the sagacity of fuchsia blue

skies. Whimpering across half-built brick houses,
summer sweats transfusing in freshly cubed

mango aromas: we dreamed together of torrential
downpour; rains gasping frantically for our steadfast

cloud-nines. Just like that we had wished to possess;
control every Undefined, from remaining gossamer

childhood days. Once, in a fleeting moment on
the cemented rooftop, when my brother mimicked

Shoaib Akhtar’s signature bowling style: I saw an oblong
rapturous cage soar towards the depths of stratosphere,

and then it rained cats and dogs. Lots of them. We spread
our olive arms; skinny as the sugarcanes of Faisalabad, and

with painless ease, we unfurled in supple creases of home,
like layers of grief peeling away from a stoic man’s slumbering face.

My brothers whistled their synchronized cue to prepare
for the imminent Wild Hunt, but my cumbersome curiosity

leaned on the corroded railing, wondering what caused a
bulbul bird to shun the freedom of an unhinged soaring cage.


A Basket of Hopefulness

It was a new place, I wouldn’t call
it home, I wouldn’t call it a jail either,
it was more like purgatory, a place for
thoughts to rise again and flock within
our minds, memories of distant places
we used to be, sometimes the red-tailed
hawk would scream, and we could all tell
the same story, the caged anguish,
hugging freedom from within bars and hoping
it would steal you away. The grey cat was always
silent, it bothered everyone, all cathedrals
within us have sermons, but he wouldn’t say
a thing. I was not that talkative, but I was not
quiet also, the smell of my original master
still lingered around me, sometimes I would
bark in my sleep thinking I heard his call, but I would
then wake up in this place and be met with the same
eyes that seemed to understand what I couldn’t say,
we who are here don’t mind this place, we wonder
and scatter the burdens of times gone among ourselves
and serve each wound with a lick and a kiss, a paw on the back,
a snuggle for the night, we are souls not yet lost, paraded here,
a basket of hopefulness.



How much fancier can a gentleman get
than a captive bird in a cage that’s ornate?
Or a nicely groomed dog on the end of a lead,
not a cross or a mix, but a pedigree breed,
with a kennel to sleep in to keep nice and warm,
treats in a pocket and tricks to perform.
A cat won’t follow orders, it walks all alone,
and turns up its nose at a big juicy bone.
Cats fancy themselves as they’re grooming their fur
with a nibble, a lick and a satisfied purr.
The local bird fancier had better beware
that the catch on his cage is fastened with care;
and dog walkers make sure to always hold tight
because dogs will chase cats, and they both love a fight.



I remain aligned with a heart and soul of pure thoughts and dreams –
or so I like to think
a walking-around masquerade
in search of some senseless (online) escapade –
that no one owes me
and am I not a caged animal
Orwellian being of some sort –
in my smallholding of adopted behaviours and reveries –
seeking for justice
that I may or may not find on the streets
if things aren’t meant to change, at any rate
and what’s my revolution even made of –
just of some buzzwords to keep me relevant
make me feel like I belong
as I’m sitting on the couch
living the dog life I so adore
(well, nothing against the friendly canines, I say, anyway –)
wishing deep down I was a free bird
a Hemingway hero instead
or at least an independent cat
that challenges the system of norms
in my head there’s loud, there’s dark
I try to believe in the bigger cause
as I’m putting my frozen meal in the oven
eating dinner while watching the news
abstract advice I read on a magazine
eat your vegetables, stay hydrated,
and breathe.
But he couldn’t.



He hit a wall.
His fads could not fog the view.
No not anymore.
He could not look the other way.
It would not be the same.
To stare at his birds with their
Restrained flights of fancy.
To go on grooming the dogs and not see the dirt
That has spread on the ground and beyond the gates
Over centuries.
There is no carpet left to brush it all under.


Birds, Cats and Dogs

Some cats I tend to understand
When looking in their faces.
Dogs I’ve known I’ve loved as well.
They’re faithful, much as grace is.
Birds – I’ve never had a bird –
Those seagulls on the beach
Or terns or plovers, pigeons, too,
They do whatever they will do.
They’re safe beyond my reach.



Caged, tethered, dogs, cats, birds,
their lack of freedom seeping
deep into the sepia-toned lithograph.

A dog-collared man? The fancier
eyes shimmering, looks on in disdain
‘I can’t breathe,’ man, dog or fowl.

Kneed in the gullet, equality, liberty
fraternity choked. Plus ca change.
History continues in brush strokes




Nothing More Is Permitted On The Tenth

big brother and me, teens

made our way to the church
most every Sunday morning

smart caps
pristine uniforms
Mom-shined shoes

passed the Bird & Dog Fancier
biggest pet store in town
pressed noses to the window
to see animals of our dreams

with eyeballs to eyeballs
sadness and pleas
them hoping for a home
them wishing to family
at folks just like us

but in the apartment
our humble home
tenth level
east facing
no more is permitted
than our family of four

Read more >

Invisible Chains

Ribs to spare, bone the cage of man
The page of man
On which he writes himself
Filling out his flesh
With animalistic fancies

He chains most
Keeps them behind bars
In an edifice of domesticity
Buttoned up, repressing everything
Into his cardboard cut-out life

No more free than the animals he sells
Imprisoned in the present
Whilst others unbound
Get ready to run
Leaving him behind


There was once a racetrack in Notting Hill, true story (after Peter Carey)

What do you remember Oscar Oscar,
do you remember our love our love?

The trivium syllabus was silent on the correct response to this form of enquiry

What do you remember Oscar Oscar,
do you remember our love our love?

save that it indicates a level of triviality that perhaps bespeaks of a union that was always

What do you remember Oscar Oscar,
do you remember our love our love?

destined to founder on whimsy as an iceberg; yours as engine, mine as default

What do you remember Oscar Oscar,
do you remember our love our love?

protection. And this coldness cheered me, whipped my hair into a tizz, an outward

What do you remember Oscar Oscar,
do you remember our love our love?

manifestation of what my heart always did when you were near, does when the hymn

Read more >

Three Cats

Three cats, three friends passing by,
attracted by a bird’s song.

Time had frozen, the cats thought,
or the man had, and his dogs.

Two caged birds interrupted
the silence of that still life.

Grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt,
a black crow croaked, unheeded.

A small, bright-liveried finch
appealed to them, and they stopped.

It sang so beautifully,
but its song did not last long.

The frozen menagerie
was silent: the cats went on.


You Can’t Sell A Dime-If You Ain’t Got No Rhyme

Shop owner: His name is Ira-he's eight years old and can sing numerous songs including 'Waltzing Matilda'.

Customer: All the verses?

Shop owner: Oh, yes and in Spanish. He's a steal at $500. Customer: Hmm... I was looking for Broadway Themes; it's a gift for an actor friend.

Shop owner: Well, look no further than Siamese Sam; his rendition yowl of all the parts in 'An American in Paris' is remarkable *whispers* and slightly weird as it seems the deaf can hear him perfectly. A steal at $300!

Customer: That IS tempting but I was thinking more: The King and I.

Parrot Ira singing: We've just been introduced, I do not know you well...

Shop owner: Isn't he wonderful?

Parrot Ira singing: But when the music started, I need to run - you smell...

Customer: That's not right, it's: We've just been introduced, I do not know you well but when the music started - something drew me to your side...

Shop owner: It doesn't rhyme. He likes it to rhyme. *coughs* He's really more Gershwinian.

Customer: Can't you teach him the correct words?

Shop owner: You should hear his comedy version, it's really rather good.

Customer: I want the King and I!

Read more >


Five o’clock mess in the middle of the road
tells that the greyhound-man was there
pausing to let his dogs unload
before pushing on to old railway line
serenaded by the tide of the rising Foyle.

Around half-seven he will return
to feed gundogs and himself break fast
once the sleeker canines have been watered well
and as he sups tea he will mull on past,
but not so much as to break topsoil.

Then he’ll fetch the gun that he cleaned last night
and check once more to ensure it’s clear
then lead pointers into waxing light
beyond suburbs in his country gear
while the bounding setter to vanguard boils.

He’d packed own lunch. There’s none at home
to welcome him back after each foray,
and only the cats to scold and comb
themselves in disdain as the pups seek play
and only the land to soothe turmoil
his lonely heart nurses.


Women and Pets

Annabelle had preferred basset hounds. She hadn't been openly opposed to the whippet that he had surprised her with, but she grabbed the dog's face and pulled down at his cheeks as if she was hoping to eek out a different breed.

Susannah was partial to parakeets and budgies. She ruffled when frustrated and tilted her head when she wanted a compliment. He found it endearing, but his flirtatious comment on wanting to keep her in a cage had fallen flat and he had to offer her a rare cockatoo to prevent her storming out.

Iris firmly defined herself as a cat person. He had cleared the shop of any canine related objects and when she came in he had prepared a spread of white, fluffy kittens on the counter, with ribbons wrapped around their paws. She had cooed, picked one up and let it burrow into her neck. He had patted the feline's head, imagining what her clavicles tasted like.

When he had inherited the pet shop from his father he thought it would be an awful bore. His days were spent in the presence of beings who could not speak back to him, and he spent hours washing the smell of animal urine out of his clothes in the evenings. He had been ruminating on how best to sell the business, which butchers would be willing to buy live animals to pass off as beef meat, when everything changed. Cynthia had walked through the doors in a ridiculously feathery hat that eviscerated her right eye from view. She peeked at him through the left, asked if he had any rabbits. 'My friend tells me that house rabbits are the new cats. I simply must have one'. She spent hours in the shop stroking the fur of his prized bunnies and, when he went to her apartment the next day to drop off the lucky animal, given him a hug that lasted a second too long.

Read more >


It is early June, and I hear birdsong —
it’s bright, coming straight out of sunshine.
The bird hides somewhere in the late
spring greenery of the garden.

I can’t see it. I am solely reliant on its song.
It's pitched at the upper half of the keyboard,
sharp not flat, and not C. Maybe A or G.

I took three flute lessons in elementary school,
so I have an ear for this sort of thing.
As they say, it’s elementary.

I suspect the bird is likely to be black.
And iridescent as fish scales. Tiny bright eyes,
cherry red, or maybe mandarin orange.

I have an idea - I look down at my Whippet.
Release its leash, “Go find that bird, doggie!”
It races down the street, chases a white Golf.

Instincts, you know. Elementary.

And then I notice that all three of my cats
are staring at the fence. My voice over-fills
with enthusiasm, “Go find that bird, kitties!”

They don’t move. The bird is still singing.
My ear catches a direction, and I am off.
To investigate.

Read more >

Among the pigeons

I worry about the hate mail,
the cold shoulders and
gaping jaws of shocked
prowling around the dunes.
But I have to tell the truth.
I’m not a fan – or fancier – of
dogs. There have been
one or two. Three,
come to think of it. Jack Russells,
several thousand miles away,
they spring –
no, not Springer, I’m not
a spaniel girl –
to mind. Birds though,
there you have me caged
and perched. Captive to their thrall
from chubby cute to
sinister sleek,
swoopers, hoppers, darters
chirpers, wailers
But I’ve not been challenged
to fancy furry felines.
Read more >


Fancy is a dangerous thing

It was for love, the fancier protests.
The heavy chain tethering
The delicate whippet neck
The droppings piling up
The clumps of hair and feathers
Plucked by their bearers in despair.
I never intended any of this.
Thus yesterday’s fancier
Speaks to today’s hoarder
I only ever marvelled at the beauty of creation
I would have held it close, a good custodian
Not merely a collector, but a lover of all God’s creatures
Although I fear my pride and shallow pockets
May have led to this unfortunate display
Believe me when I say
It was for love I sought them.
So says the figure eaten up by cage and kennel
As our extinction-attuned eyes flit
From human to non-human quick
To note: we’ve seen the show, we know
How this plays out
How the endearing eccentric evolves
Into a kitten-killing beast
The hidden corpses of unknown pets
Resting uncounted, unavenged until
The hoarder is brought out in the open
Flinching at the sudden freedom and exposure
Skittish as a fur farm fox
Equally fearful of our kindness
And judgement.


Jackie and Brian

Jackie had set up zoom quizzes with her family, had drinks nights with friends, and even tried a virtual blind date. But it wasn’t the same as feeling the warm blood of another creature close to her.

She began to court her spaniel, Brian. Brian used to be just her pet, a good walking companion, a significant but worthwhile household expense. Cheaper than a therapist or gym membership. They had always watched TV together but now Jackie has been setting his bowl on the table so that they can dine together. Brian has bathed whilst she brushes her teeth. Brian has licked away her tears and cried with her. Tonight, she invited him into her bed and they talked into the early hours before falling asleep naked in each other’s arms.


A month later, the restrictions were lifted. Jackie arranged to meet the virtual date on the terrace of a newly re-opened restaurant. When she returned, at 2am, unsteady from fizzy wine, Brian was waiting in the hall. Jackie ruffled his head clumsily before stumbling into her bedroom and closing the door.

Brian went back to his hairy dog bed under the stairs. It had been beautiful to taste love, if only for one cycle of the moon.



They were always sepia
the old photographs
and slightly misty,
the technique
not fully developed.
But though sepia,
they seemed dark
and posed and staged,
subjects unsmiling
even the animals
sad and still.
All were caged
in the strictness of the set
and the strictness of the age
when an upright facade hid the darkness behind
where the sepia darkened
and turned brown as primeval mud
in an frightful ancient swamp.
So much has changed.
Now we have colours.
Now we smile for the camera,
it’s allowed.
Even the animals look animated
but it’s still a facade
still hiding darkness
in the background.



This is my house / this is my shopkeeper / my nation of fanciers / these fancy men appreciating / my look.

This is my house / this is my city of bars / my keeper of keys / my lick of the hand that feeds me / is my look.

This is my house / this is my hall of leashes / and sometimes of whips / my companions desultory / rattle makes me look.

This is my house / these are my jowls / my dribble in my bowl / these airy tweets / are above my look.

This is my house / this is my breed / my voice is a bay / my voice is a-wooooo / my hunt is my look.

This is my house / this my brown wall / my pack bays / my red distraction / my nose leads my look.

This is my house / these fancy men like birds / they like the red distractions / watch them / they turn my look.

This is my house / this is my song that bays without my pack / my world is brown / my hunt for red distraction / my hangdog look.

The cats! The cats! a-woooooooooo!


The Dog House

First came the drought. Then came the plague. After that came the rain that refreshed the Earth, but the problem of the dogs and birds remained.

In the Year 3003 when the surface of the Earth had started to look like a burnt potato crisp, water and food had become a problem even for the well-heeled nations.

Those who were fully paid up members of the Steam Punk 13 Cult who were endowed with scientific minds came up with solution. It was a pill that transformed humans into pets.

They had observed that many cults that were considered as highly developed and resource wealthy preferred dogs to children, parents and siblings and would take good care of them. People also liked birds and would invest in nuts and bird seeds to keep them chirping in their gardens.

Dogs drank less water and could exist on scraps and birds didn’t need much sustenance. So, it seemed both logical and sensible to offer the long-term prisoners the chance to become dogs or birds for the duration of the drought.

Rain had been predicted for 200 years later, but the prisoners might starve before then and that would be considered inhuman, however heinous their crimes might have been.

At that point Cult Steam Punk 13 had assumed that 200 years would provide enough time for them to invent another pill that would reverse the process and hopefully by that time the prisoners might have reformed as well. In theory, it was a good idea, but as with all drugs there were problems. In this case the prisoner's personality remained the same. Therefore, a murderous human being became a dog that killed or a bird that pecked out eyes. Fortunately, they only killed other animals. Read more >


Bird & Dog Fancier-in-Chief

The fear of the bird is not of the cat.
The corvid is black
and contains the missing R,
the nought,
the sought-out number.
They'll kill for less.
There's shattering
in the ears of the cats.
Hounds, strong-necked
(wooden, the kerb,
not a boot-step),
caged (mixed, close,
zoonotic potential).
He fancied them:
he coveted those pussies.
He Bibled against it.
Is that a bat I see before me?
(Cover: Destruction Mix.)



Ironic, isn’t it, that you described yourself as a ‘fancier’?
I don’t think that you ever desired me.
I was the shape at the end of the hands that placed loaded plates and gleaming glassware beneath your chin and swept them away in a graceful waft.
I was the shadow that crept in the periphery, my skirts whispering, the unworn heels of my shoes never touching the knotted wood.
I was the flesh that lay beside you.
From being repeatedly slapped by the flat palm of indifference, I began to bleed invisible drops from the growing spikes of hatred that pierced my heart. Pummelled numb, I filled with the heavy weight of nothingness. My head hung with the effort of carrying it.
In every connotation, I was an empty vessel.
But you could love.
Always at your side, Rufus, Jingo and Dexter were your dinner companions, devouring the choicest cuts of succulent meat alongside you. I salivated as their pink tongues swiped and circled, lapping every last drop from their gravy-doused muzzles. I envied as, satiated, Jingo dropped into a contented sleep while my stomach cried out hollow night after night. When their dishes shone, Rufus’s soulful eyes would turn to mine.
I think he was telling me he was sorry.
Your treasured birds were caged next to the window, fluttering like my trapped heart inside my ribs, singing while I swallowed every word. I thought it cruel that they could see the wide blue of the sky behind glass. Many times, I thought of releasing them, watching their wings fan open as they found a current and disappeared like black ciphers tossed into the beyond.
Read more >


That’s Life

Stanley: I stand sadly, shoulders slumped and wonder where my next meal is coming from
I have been eyeing up the bright birds I can see in their wicker cages
Wondering if knocking them over might create a diversionary storm
Sending my master into a spin, but giving me the chance for a rampage?

Albert: My tummy’s rumbling, my chest is swollen and my breath smells
Not for me a life of green meadows and rollicking and rolling in the sun
Instead I am on guard, watching, waiting, tethered by a bell
To this old rusty kennel, my master calls home, but it sure ain’t fun.

George: All I can do is slouch and sleep, bored, listless, and hungry
I too am waiting but I am disguising it by looking dog-tired
When really, I am a coiled spring, hoping that Stanley next to me,
Will start a ruckus, causing chaos, and help release the food as desired.

Cat Pack: Quick. Look, over there, see who is coming this way?
I don’t like the look of it at all, but how do we stall and keep the faith?
We are guarding the birds too; we need to stay alert to keep the dogs at bay
Using our wiles and wits, to outmanoeuvre any stray wraith.

Bright Birds: We know they are all salivating and eyeing us up as dinner food
But we are smarter than they are, and will stay put in our cages
Making no noise, keeping quiet and calm, reflecting our master’s mood
He’s a good man, a benefactor, not one to fly into rages.

Master: I hope I get a break today and some soul comes by
And admires one of my animal friends: birds, cats or dogs will do
Who knows, there could even be a purchase in it, not for them to die
But for them to be loved, well-fed and given a better life than in my sepia zoo.


Inked In

Think of Seurat, insistent as a sewing machine,
      woodpeckering a canvas with his brush,
      needling blips of color into his penciled outline
      to saturate a landscape with confetti
      the way a telegraph operator hole-punches silence.
That’s how I imagine lines emerging
      from the illustrator’s pen,
      stitching walls to floorboards,
      threading bars on birdcages,
      crosshatching wire cubes over the heads of kittens,
      stacking towers into a corner as lightly as hatboxes.
      When the room is crowded as a closet
      the customer awakens from his reverie
      to find the shop has sprouted around him,
      fast as frost on a window.


There Is a Coffee-Colored Shop

Where the sepia pet store stood for decades
there is a coffee shop. Tables in its windows
seat lovers or friends, families or office-mates.
Where people eddy near the door an angry
red-and-blue parrot-shaped voice cleared
the aisle. No one ever wanted that evil bird.
But what happened after Easter, to Manilla-
yellow leftover ducks and chickens dyed pink
and pastel blue? Did mothers ask for week-old
pinfeather-pricked chicks the way they buy
shopworn cookies for toddlers to gum? Where
there were cages like props for magicians you
can find souvenirs. Mugs and postcards and
bags of roast beans. Toys with chewable ears.



“I am a part of all that I have met,” mused
Tennyson as he read the map of a soul…as he
traced the lines of here and there upon a heart.

I, too, am a collage of all that I have met. I am a
fancier of dog days and bird songs, of cat stares and
silences, of cages and stages, and actors waiting in
the wings.

A cut and paste smattering of past moments and
minds are stacked and tacked upon the poster of
times long past, but forever to last, pasted and
framed in each present thought.

All of life collages into place,
separate stories suspended in an instant,
brought together in a puzzling yet wonder-full
whole…pieces strangely fitting, served on a
platter of what does and does not matter.

Will you buy a dog daze? A feline flit of
time and rhyme? Wings of whimsies and whys?
Come, browse this collage of me as I hold these
lines on a leash and await your nod.

I am the shopkeeper of all I have met, the
vendor of pet verses of me.


From this perch, I can keep you safe

I am yours, but you are not mine;
wide eyes they watch over.

We once were garden guards, guardians
of the sky, and beyond. Keepers-of-secrets,
peacemakers, gifting clouds for pillows. We
licked loved ones on their return, built our
nests from brambles.

Invited in: we opted for shelter over wings,
where we played games of would you rather.
Watch the world from behind bars bars, or
fail to rest long enough to build a home?

Not long ago questions were inventive,
Boundless; but we got carried away
worrying about whose eyes
lie outside these cages.



He was kind to animals.

Wistful remembrances from when he was a boy of the litter of kittens born to the stray cat his parents told him not to feed. The poignant tale of the beloved spaniel he'd had to give away when he decided to go back to college. Not to mention he'd won over her most ornery cat...and her with it. In the backwater town they'd been gracelessly forced to call home, a sportsman's paradise, he told her of the tragedy of his father's attempt to make a hunter of him; how he'd cried while his father took the kill shot, putting the unfortunate bird he'd only managed to wound out of its misery. “Never again,” he'd said. His tender soul had been wounded that day, as well. He meant only to be a healer now.

He spoke of empathy for the underdog. If all those years of Catechism were to be believed, his professed kindness to those lesser than himself undeniably meant he had the virtue of Saint Francis, a true paragon. Animal abuse might be a major red flag for psychopathy...but some flags have a more subtle hue. They were fragile, hapless, the animals and her. He'd taken heroic pride in rescuing them, and now they had become extensions of himself. They were his possessions, and anything worthwhile about them was a reflection of him. He preened while recounting all he'd done for those wretched creatures, how much better he'd made their lives!

But what of his life? Where was his reward for suffering this mantle of suffocating responsibility? She was nothing more than another stray, and now that'd he'd fed her, he would never be free. He'd have to take care of himself, it seemed. He made women a sport, hunting them like pigeons and squirrels, baiting traps with effusive praise and fattening them up on a steady stream of flattery. The weaker, hungrier ones were the easiest; the ones pecking at crumbs, rooting through rubbish. Read more >


Un Coup de Foudre

IN THE BACK PAGES OF THE TABLOID, where the ads for teacup monkeys thankfully no longer appear, he notices a plug for a woman billing herself as ALACULA.

The ad includes what appears to be the xeroxed face of an attractive young woman, possibly Russian or of Eastern European extraction. "Do people still use xerox machines this far into the century?" he wonders, and then wonders that he does not know the answer. Among the barrage of cramped ads jumbled together like paintings on the walls of a nineteenth century Salon des Refusés, black and white rectangles promising "NONPAREIL" brochures for dog fanciers, cat fanciers, bird fanciers, ads whispering post office box numbers to which you SIMPLY MUST send A SINGLE DOLLAR BILL! to have your past, present or future decoded by a REAL AKASHIC EXPERT!!, her ink face no larger than his thumbprint radiates secret waves. And he falls into that ink face like Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo. It is the face of a young woman offering a surprising range of services while flashing us (presumably) pretend vampire teeth.








Read more >

The Fabulist Manifesto

“I used to be a Stuckist but I’m a Fabulist now!”

“A Fabulist mum! Like Aesop.
Aesop’s fables?
I’m finally making use of my English degree.
I’ve made a manifesto.
Here, I’ll read it to you now:

The Fabulist Manifesto.

Find some animals. Translate what they do into human folly.
Rewild your imagination, like George Monbiot or Michaela Strachan.
Most fables are about being careful what you wish for. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.
Most fables warn against getting ideas above your station, and that trying to be something you are not is morally bankrupt.
That said, try and behave like an animal to learn more about them, like Charles Foster, or Marcus Coates, or George Galloway.
There are loads of fables in The New Scientist. Tart them up a bit.
Fables are the medium of yesterday; today; and tomorrow.
If you find yourself in an argument, use a fable to make your point. It didn’t help Aesop, they still threw him off a cliff, but he sort of had the last laugh!

That’s pretty much it.
I feel really positive about this new direction.
Look, I’ll have to go, the animals are conspiring. I don’t want to miss anything.
Love to dad and the others. I’ll speak to you soon.”


The Many Shades of Baggage

The girls warned me, in hushed tones and whispers, over coffee, during cards – poker, Blackjack, on each birthday. At every chance. Too much baggage, Girl. You’ve gotta cleanse.
Only, I don’t know how. I’m a collector.
Ceramic mugs – eight and twelve ounces preferred. Comics – mostly Marvel. Sometimes Batman. Classics, too. Snoopy tunes. Stuffed, too. Lucy and Linus know me well. Foreign coins of gold and silver metal. Ball point pens. Inspiration inked in company messaging and four-point font. Unsharpened No. 2 pencils, by the dozen. I stack the colorful wooden cylinders in cups throughout my apartment. On sun-drenched windowsills. Built by hand bookcase shelves. Laminate kitchen counters, too. Pack my closets with fabrics woven of dreams. Patterns that make me think of far-away lands and nearby haunts. Blue gingham bandannas. Red plaid skirts. Cardigans woven of ocean turquoise, sandy beach beige, evergreen forests. Dresser drawers of socks. Hand-rolled and neatly organized. Striped cotton knee-highs.
Fuzzy wools in all colors of the rainbow. Prints, too. Everything from ankle length to thigh-high. Embroidered stances on a world gone wrong. Yellow ducks, expressionless emojis, pinatas bursting of potential. Always believing I should have been born a 100-years prior. Also, a fan of prints. Black and white. Sepia. Abstracts. Walls are made for sharing, I explain. When the girls come for a visit. They protest, no matter. My most recent addition made them laugh. Your soul mate, they tease. The man stands, stoic, amidst his own collection. Five birds in cages. Four, maybe five, dogs on leashes. A basketful of cats, too. If only you were of another time, the girls say.
If only, I reply, and adjust the frame. There, perfect. Picked this one up just yesterday.


The Duty to Act

The outfitted man and his cats and the kittens who fancy the birds, not the mice, but the birds cannot fly, still in their cages they flutter and squawk of their wish for the dogs to barge in and bark but the dogs on the floor sleep leashed or unleashed, some chained to the house, dream of chasing cats, bite their own flesh to kill off the bugs but look on sleepily as if drugged.

And I, who fancy them all, would pay to undo their plight
to be sold or traded. I would fight for their freedom, would cut a deal with this seller of pelts, living pelts who have forgotten what it’s like to roam free, without care, for no fee.

Now the hound looks on, recognizes me to be a lover of creatures who run wild and carefree. With quiet desperation, he makes a plea. Set us free, set us free, says he, without saying, with his eyes, without gesture, sans bark or bite. I realize in the face of false facts, I have a duty to act.

So here I stand knee deep in thought, searching for an answer, a light in the dark of such a predicament, in this moment, in the near total tan of tonight a dilemma so fraught, whether to barge in or pull out my wad or my gun, to pay or to steal, to feed them all fancy meals, to show them I care, a mixture of meats and of sweets, exotic and rare.

In a flash I am certain, willing to fight for the right to realign
their fates, their trajectory of cause. With a slight of my hand
I shape my fist under my shirt to resemble a gun, to instill in him fright, make him sign over the rights of the creatures enslaved residing in the fancier’s penitentiary.

I offer him honey and bundles of money. I wait and the creatures wait with me to hear his reply, what he will do, what he has on his mind. Time passes and all turns tan in the blur of the moment, in the tick-tock of time passing. Read more >


This house of outcasts

All the animals we rescued and nursed back to health are in the made-up picture of the life we could have had. You’re in it too, but I’m not. I’m the photographer, trying to capture something I could point at and call happiness later on. I’m the one behind the screen, cutting and pasting pixels from years’ worth of memories, washing them in sepia so there’s no mistaking them for present joy.

In my montage of heartbreak you stand in the far left corner of the garden shed, boxed in between a stack of pet carriers and the tall cage with the budgies that could say ”sweet baby bird”. You’re holding Hera, the kitten you didn’t want. “No more cats,” you said the evening I fished her out of a sewer, while Smokey and Bella circled around the new arrival, taking her in, assessing the threat. The day you caught the three of them sleeping in the wedge of light beneath the living room window, you had the lost advert half written; you crumpled the piece of paper and told me you hated having decisions made for you. I knew it would end like this: you had come round to so many of what you used to call “my things”. You had come round to black tea, you had come round to cult French movies, you had come round to beach holidays, and you were always going to come round to Hera.

We couldn't keep all the dogs, all the strays we took to a vet in the middle of the night or set up for a new home. You suffered for the dogs: for the Staffie that followed you everywhere, for the Lab that had lost its blind owner, for the ailing mutt that passed away the next day. But you would always have rather loved and lost; of all the good things to be said about you, that’s the one your leaving us hasn’t made any less true.

The last to arrive at our house of outcasts was Daisy, the old Weimaraner you claimed I cared about more than I cared for you. Her ears framed her face like an edgy haircut when she was still, and flapped up and down when I let her loose in the park. Read more >



On the last Friday of every month Mr Protheroe would put on a show out front of the pet store. The audience for this would comprise the same bunch of younger kids from the neighbourhood squeezed together on a row of upturned crates and a few adults of the more soft-centred kind who would stop and observe from further back. In return for their viewing pleasure the spectators were encouraged to put a nickel in an old pewter tankard which Mr Protheroe passed round periodically with the ultimate contents being donated to some unspecified charity.

The show invariably consisted of three separate sections. First off, a variety of eager pooches would run through a repertoire of canine trickery on command; rolling over, begging, jumping through hoops and barking to indicate how many fingers their owner was holding up (not always with a hundred percent success rate). Then the birds, the Cockatoos and Mynahs, would have their turn. Their party piece was to mimic popular comedy performers of the day. Mostly their attempts were unrecognizable but generally had a decent crack at Jerry Lewis, “Hey L-a-a-ady, and Lou Costello, “I'm a ba-a-a-a-d boy!”, which would both elicit a modest ripple of applause. At this point a cohort of slightly older boys would usually turn up to heckle. Mr Protheroe’s response to this became as predictable as the rest of the show. “Waddya expect for a nickel, Barnum and Bailey? Now gedoutta here!”

But it was the final segment of the show that was Mr Protheroe’s ace-in-the-hole. While the dogs and the birds were doing their thing there would always be three or four cats stretched out across the kennels and rabbit hutches on the store porch. They would eye proceedings with indifference and disdain breaking into the occasional yawn. As a rule, Mr Protheroe felt the same way about the cats. However, Rusty was the exception that broke the rule. Read more >



things fall apart eventually
aged by the usual culprit
not just any old abstract
this face and form an old habit
with a non-smile of accord
accepting of his state in sepia
in an old style and rumpled
wool suit – so far away in the last
century or the one before – 'fancier'
is etched on a wooden panel used
to mean something though little
or nothing now in the same sepia
though not faded – cats wisely stay
close to the birds that are at a caged
disadvantage and a prey at anytime
only as bright as the dogs that
gradually part from their master
and assume another density where
their well brushed coats brandish
a health and energy from long ago
before they and their master must go
and their images fade slowly from then
in the age nobody remembers
          cannot know now
                              fall apart


In plain sight

Below a hound’s paw there’s a secret language,
arabesque scrollwork, zig-zag peaks and troughs.
Drag your gaze away from caged serpents,
the dog house, kittens on a stepladder,

and grey-faced men. Details can be used
to distract casual observers. Explore corners,
perception sliding to boundaries to find
what might otherwise be overlooked.

Artists, artisans, and conspiracy nut-jobs hide
their heart’s modus operandi in plain sight,
their ciphers disguised as meaningless scrawl
running along the bottom of a page.



Isn't the picture beautiful?
Look at him, so proud he is.
A Man, a man indeed.
After all he has caged us
Triumphantly since ages.
Bird and dog, eh!
And we? We are where?
Neither in picture, nor in words,
But you weren't able to erase us.
Look at them looking at us,
The cats, yes, them.
Their eyes reflect the anger of our eyes
And our fingers mirror their claws.
We are learning.
Beware! You might wake up with a bleeding scar.
Each night we escape out the bars,
Tomorrow it might be day.
Tomorrow it may be day.
Beware! The Yellow Wallpaper of each house is torn.



Instead of fancier of only
birds and dogs
I see a man displaying cats, dogs
rabbits, more
in his sepia-toned general store.
He stares out at me
across the years
inviting me, quite solemnly,
to ”come in and find a pet.”
I demure.
I’m not quite ready yet.
My life is not aligned
with care for a pet—all that time.
So why does the flyer of this fancier
appeal? Is he calling me?
Does he want me to adapt,
so I can adopt a singing pet,
a barker, rabbit, or mewing cat?
Or is he saying
even if I do not adopt.
I too can be a fancier
appreciating each one for its
unique self and reach out my hand
to pet the pet.


PS. remember to feed the cat

He’d survived the heart attack.
He’d escaped the virus, which
he’d been told targeted people his age.

He felt like he was dying.
He felt like a spectre tucked behind the ghosts of
pets past.
He barely had the energy to feed his cat let alone the cattle.

At least that’s what he thought before he remembered that
there was no cat and no cattle.

His new world wasn’t black and white or even shades of grey.
His vision only recognized brown and tan.
His least favourite colours.

Tan like the walls
around his bed, chair, and night stand
in the institution people
called a home
with care.

Brown like the dirt
which stayed in the
cracks of his hands
no matter how hard
he scrubbed.

Dirt which he could no longer find.

Read more >

Five and thirty five

Charles is five and thirty five both.
The childhood, and the middle age both
are here, both hang on walls of paper
against paper pictures, hounds and beasts
scare the child, hounds and beasts
adorn the wall for the middle aged
man who has forgotten fear,
who has forgotten how to hold hands
of someone he loves, and tell words
of empathy and ask questions that matter,
and forgotten how to smile,
so he feeds the dogs and puts birds
in fancy cages, and holds a stick
and walks with a limp, unlike the child
who runs across fields of yellow flowers
and smiles at the cameraman
who is his mother, who is sometimes his father
and both are a memory now, like the yellow fields,
and the dogs and hounds who tried to save them
are his companions.



i see you
noble gestures
-manners even-
all of it
they learned from me
i am watching,
programming obsessions
lucky creatures
fed by me.

Right amount
so well proportioned
boasting owners soon will tell
nose to nose that one is coughing
cut down
another skin.

I protect you,
they will later
race and hunt and shoot
you down
finding chains, locks, bars
for cages
trust me
quality sells best. Read more >



Sometimes when it is very quiet
And I can manage to slow the
turbulence in my mind down
to a dull roar

I can see dogs, cats and birds
sepia toned, like an ancient photograph
an image of an alternate past, present
or a future

That doesn't or can't exist
I almost think that I see me
translucent like the way I imagine
a ghost to look

But then the phone rings
or a noisy bus trundles by
and I snap back to the present
again aware

Why is it that in our dreams we imagine
perfection in missed alternative lives
but can only see the worst in the world in
which we exist?


In Sepia: A Ghazal

Welcome to my pet store in sepia
For birds, dogs and more in sepia

My parrots can talk just as you do
My mynahs you will adore in sepia

Dogs of every breed and pedigree
Playful pugs, lively labradors in sepia

If you doubt that cats have nine lives
Read once again that lore in sepia

Cats and dogs are sworn enemies
But they don’t wage a war in sepia

Bow-wows, meows make a rock band
Harmony finds a metaphor in sepia

When poetry doesn’t work in pixel
Let your art open a new door in sepia


In Search of Conall Fulton

There it was at the bottom of the box,
The face of a man I had thought lost,
A face, staring back at me, a face I had longed to see,
This ancestor, of long, long ago
A man the family felt they had to let go,
                                   Go, they said to this man from the past,
                                   The choices you’ve made bring the family shame
                                   You’ve risked drawing darkness down on our name,
Our name, such a thing you’d not think of now,
What were we named for I wondered aloud,
                                   We were once top breeders of feline lines,
                                   Stocking royal households with pedigrees throughout time,
                                   These fur clad rat catchers do not offend the eye,
                                   But this man, I shudder to give him a name,
                                   This man he brought this family shame
And what was his crime I asked aloud,
                                   His crime he dared to stand aside from our crowd,
                                   He thought felines the lesser breed,
                                   Spending instead both his eye and time
                                   Breeding dogs, hounds of the day
                                   Selling these to hunters, men without shame,
                                   But the greatest crime he committed of all
                                   Was to cage those wondrous creatures
                                   Given the gifts of flight by nature,
                                   When he caged birds the family disowned him,
                                   Vowing never again to speak his name,
Read more >


A Menagerie

A time long ago, a
Bird and dog fancier stall
In a menagerie of existences
Had varied species of hound
Avis and Feilis there
A ladder like a pecking order
Beneath above and to the side were
Pit Bulls, Blood Hounds, Whippets
Song birds, parrots, minor birds – and cats
A man standing amidst
Offering them for sale for ha’pennies



Skinned ribs, panting and lined up
even an iota of love is enough to keep them caged
and chained for a lifetime—
their love is often confused with their submission

the boisterous nature of man ruling every species
sitting on the top of the food chilling
smiling down at everyone

Man hides behind his imperfect nature
of ruling everyone with complete perfection
canine, feline, avian—
treating everyone with no discrimination
such is the nature of the pure love dispensed by him

Who else needs to be domesticated
to prove the loving nature of man?
The display, the proud possession
cats, dogs, crows, ravens
the menagerie—
chained and caged for centuries

Time has been rubbed onto the sepia-tinged paper
the constant reaffirmation of man
to be loved out of free will
not out of submission
a fallacy in existence:
has been documented again and again.



We all end up in captivity.
In some family owned lot
shoved to the back of a cupboard
or in museums
if our bloodline is blue.
We pap ourselves incessantly
for this safety, in being witnessed
by the right people.
Sometimes I think of all the tourists
who hold me in two dimensions
on hard drives scattered
across the globe, unintentionally,
my sunglasses hiding my eyes
in the background, near city hall,
and I feel frightened
that I may never slip the leash
of myself. Other times I’m glad
that somewhere me and my loved ones sit
on a mantelpiece, like a shrine
to some minor god. I daydream
about the moments where we are lifted down
as the story is recounted of the cruise
to a foreign city, where the currency
was different, and the people welcoming
and strange.



It’s easing up—
my belt slackens
my drain cover ribs
slur morning hymns
as the months crawl on.

But it’s ending soon
and when we open,
you’re staying.
I’ll break the till,
swallow the key—
even lock us in again.

We’re splitting cheerios,
we’ll eat the others if we have to
leave our story on empty receipts
and cat cage labels.

You jangle each moment like prey
and I’m not sure if I’m being fed
or very slowly hunted.

You curtain claw my shadows,
you gnaw my toes till morning
as our basket cradles
the outside away.

Read more >

Canine Teeth

You trained your animal
To be polite and vegetarian,
To speak softly
Canine teeth wearing off from chewing plants and over thinking
While the world’s sabre-toothed tiger teeth
Are expressing themselves, shiny and sharp
Are things beyond your reach real?
Your carry around your sepia fantasies
In your empty pockets
No hiding places
Or secret animals
Only your own
Which is too softly spoken
But you can’t kill


Number One Clue

There were a lot of things that tipped me off.
This man does not like women.
Did you see the sad look on his dog’s face?
Number one clue.
His other dogs refused to even look at me.
Then there were the cats.
They seemed tense, staring off into the distance as if
Looking for a window they hoped to jump out of.
And all those cages, one upon the other.
More cats, and are those rabbits?
Poor birds, bet they can’t sing.
He calls himself a fancier.
I had to look it up.
He breeds them all.
No wonder they’re unhappy.
My advice to myself — run, don’t walk
Because before I know it,
He’ll have me in a cage too.


A Dead Fish

The sign suggests passion
birds of exotic beauty
canine royalty groomed and displayed

the disconnection chills
all is flat
grey brown dull

there is no smile
no bird song
no excited bark

blank eyes stare out
not the cats whose focus
is on what is hidden stage left

you imagine colour
a parakeet swearing
three terriers fighting

a dead fish


The Priest

He was a priest preaching
to caged birds and leashed dogs;
the crow cawed from behind
to sing the chorus after morning prayers,
as the dogs looked upon in silence.

He felt like he knew them well:
their wants, their wishes -
their search for freedom
behind locked doors!

He placed
the Three Cats
on a pedestal:
closer to his heart where
they could guard his Soul
so delicately hidden
beneath his brown coat.

He etched his Love
for his Loyal followers
on the wooden doors
"Bird & Dog Fancier",
it read -
the camera clicked
as he stared right ahead!
the Cats looked away,
the crows cawed,
the dogs stood in silence
after the morning prayers.



I’ve heard the zoos will reopen soon
and they say they do good work these days,
‘captivity aids conservation’, and zoos need our money.

I remember a rainy afternoon spent wandering the zoo in Lille
a ragged panther pacing ever-tightening loops
in the tiny circlet of her enclosure

and my throat clutched as she keened for all the lost wild places.

I’ve heard the pet shops reopen soon. I cannot walk past the store
in the local market without flinching at the stale fug of
bedraggled feathers, those despondent finches

row after row, tiny bodies stilled on perches in barred boxes,
voices hushed and flight subdued. I have seen their sisters
pluck at the strings of guitars with their sharp red beaks

then slip inside our pockets. I wasn’t sure if they were
playing with us, or asking to be smuggled out
to bigger skies—

a brief escape, before the magpies caught them.



They are turning men into automated spies.
They cloud our vision with fumes of lies.
With grenades of promises and hopes and dreams,
They churn your spirits,
Your ethos they grind.
They tell you how you owe them the guns of your mind,
And there you lose your arms!
And there you surrender!

With convenient truths which they glue to your tongues
You think you have ladders while they hide the rungs.
We climb over our kennels and cages
And boast how loud we speak
And the clever master stands behind
And tightly holds the leash.

They are turning men into cats and dogs;
And fancy species of birds.
We call them leaders
And learn to ascribe their words.

They are masters and manipulators
They are walking shenanigans.
Like magicians they juggle with freedom
And catch you in boxes instead
Like dogs and cats,
And fancy species of birds.
They are traders, vendors and keepers of men.
In Reality, they are cheap fanciers of men.


No Birds Need Apply

We load up to leave a fishing village along the Delaware Bay
on the New Jersey side for a Levittown that goes by the name
Willingboro, once a farming community willing to be winding
streets of five different models in sections called Somerset,
Hawthorne, Pennypacker, Buckingham, Millbrook, and Garfield.

We leave with a dog called Ruff who came to live with us
because the rug by the door was warm. In the beginning,
neighbors called and asked us to let him out for nightly
rounds of dinner. When they no longer worried, he stayed put.
Also in the car are a rabbit and three cats. We all get along.

In charge of transportation is a buttoned-up redhead called
Murphy. Why he hooked up with this menagerie remains
a mystery and I’m not talking about the animals. Two cats
give up on the newly designed suburb and move home
on their own over 75 miles of backwoods trails.

Eventually, the other inhabitants follow the cats’ lead.
We are very good with buses and timetables. I learned
to not carry much when I travel. Once I boarded a plane
for New Orleans with just a large purse over my shoulder.
It makes you look suspicious when you enter the room

of a man upon arrival that way. I went back and forth
to London frequently for weeks with just a small carry-on,
often questioned in Customs. I now live in the desert.
I have not moved in 45 years. I still take in animals,
one at a time, if it’s a good match.


Tear-Stained Skies

The cats he bought, though gentle and elegant, were fierce and cruel and cold; swinging from mood to mood like a pendulum, but unpredictable, harsh, without the satisfying rhythm to numb the inconsistencies.

The dogs were loyal to point of flaw, throwing themselves hither and tither to protect from ghosts that never existed, crying out the need for fulfillment and action and peace all at once; such easily excited creatures with no reason to be excited. The birds cried solemn cries like a heartbroken maiden with no words but for a shrill shriek; they cry for things that never happened, or ever will be told, never will be forgiven. It could be haunting, beautiful, calming or exciting; but he does not speak bird, so he couldn't know. He could never know.

The other animals were an organized chaos of things that belong, but don't belong. Like an orange in a glass; its juice is meant to be there, but without the peel. Like a tear-stained sky; the water in the wrong form, the wrong story, the wrong place.

This tear-stained sky of cries and growls and barks were a plethora of stories that he could never know; but he loved them just the same.


Eden AGain

They were different times
birds and snakes were caged
goats and horses were tethered
people walked free

Now we are locked down
afraid for our lives
and animals thrive
in a Covid-19 world

Birds abound
their song fills the air
the beat of their wings
can be heard

The world burgeons blossoms
and blooms
all living things flourish
only man hides away

Rivers run clear
trees and plants grow strong
let the earth
become Eden again


Boone County Hundred Years Later

Bessie the first time I saw your photograph in the family book, I didn’t know I would look like you, but here I am 42 and as lean and hard as any of your bunch. The hollow in my neck is so deep it could hold a cup of milk.

Picture you tried to tell me this years back. You said you, soft child, eating and dumb in your daddy’s house, in your husband’s house. You will see. You’ll thin out, dry out, and get left before you find the staying place. And then you’ll be you, but skinny and mean. And there I’ll be, your tintype said.

Terrors. Twenty years ago I held the picture of you, the one I know you by, looked at you with your hair back and all the kids about you. The baby on the watermelon and all of them, every one of them has your eyes, those looking-for-a-fight eyes. That time I held the picture my hand was soft, was pink, my finger plumped out a little around my wedding ring. I told myself you were far away and foreign, but there was a flash of something hot in my throat that said girl just you wait and see. Today I held you and all those kids in my hand, and by God, just like you said there’s my hand all bones and no ring. The children are all about and my mouth is set like yours. I am looking for a fight.

Today you said to look again at the other pictures, that one taken in full sun. I did. You in a summer dress alongside him, your shoulders touching, easy before a field of cane. Mind my hair you said. See how it is loose and the breeze is kissing it. And right after, he reached out and touched my hair. They told us the land wouldn’t grow cane so we grew it just to spite them and don’t let no one tell you there’s no good in spite.

I look again just now. You say there’s no way to know this by looking at the picture, but him and me are facing the barn and there is the speckled bunch of pigs I farrowed with my own hands. Your same hands, you say. Look down at your hands, at the picture in your stick fingers. Read more >


One of us

Corralled into an empty shed, some of us still caged.
Fur and feather, feather and fur, a piebald maelstrom.
Jump, fly, move up, find a space, still they come.

Some begin to whimper, some mutter, lean back on
scrawny necks and cry for their gods,
or squawk through feathered throat.

A few have let their gaze drop to the ground
but the rest of us share the vigilant eye. The moving eye
with big pupils darting, ever watchful.

We watch, we wait, we are forced closer, fur on feather,
feather on fur. We start to share our own language.
We are life in its own arrangement of parts.



I collage the rug with their fur
their paw-prints engraved with coal
framed inside our domestic skein
the kittens lounge at the velvety noon.

Sorrel pastels their dreamy notes
as I cut the cages from the page and let
the birds sing semitones. Labradors stop
their singing, howling a chanson:

a community of cut-ups in a surreal assembly.
There aren't collars in the sepia photograph
but a tangled film reel the playful cats pull
from the kinetoscope. With their help, I glue

the motion pictures, knit them on a mesh
and project the film on the parquet flooring.


A Capture

…welcome stares, more
than a once-over, edges observed once apart,
now put together…the process: selection, curation, cut-
and-paste, and now to frame…
The waiting gaze, the cage, collage
of takeaways, likeness: docile curiosity, the want
to be touched, welcomed
with gentle nuzzling, the surprise
rumble purring, a rare wanting.

Permission to reach, given
not by force. They aren’t poached
from the wilderness, but friendly
if you let them. Hear the hiss,
narrowed eyes, flattened ears,
crouching small…grant
them space. The hiss warns
before a frightened strike.

Listen, you
must listen: this is permission,
not privilege. Even through a photo,
especially through a photo.


A North Facing Room

From spring into summer, when the sun shines high, the shadow of the garden pond ripples across the ceiling. She can't fathom the physics of it but she watches until her eyes grow heavy like her legs.

Her room is small. From her bed she is lucky to be able to see a slice of sky. A delicious slice of sky with whipped cloud. On a windy day she watches the clouds racing. There really is so much to see.

She had asked the nurse if there was a south facing room so she could feel the sunlight slide across her legs, warming her bones on a chilly day. He said maybe, if one becomes available. For now, he moves her bedside lamp so that it shines on her face like the sun. Closing her eyes she can be anywhere: sunbathing in a Cornish cove; sipping wine at a pavement café.

Each day she whistles Claude from his cage.

Mr Bennett from the pet shop had picked a beautiful sweet creature for her: a pink and grey lovebird. He said its partner had died and Claude needed company. Mr Bennett stops by once a week to feed and clean the bird. He always wears a suit. They only speak if she wants to; he knows some days she has no energy for conversation.

Claude chatters and flutters and traps the last of the autumn sun's rays in his feathers. While she sleeps, he lies on her chest to keep her heart warm.

Amidst the ornate cages bursting with colour and feathers, Mr Bennett thinks of her. The first frost pattern is etched on the glass of his shop window and he knows she won't last the winter in her north facing room.



The cats are indignant at the omission.
They stare at the bold lettering,
knowing intuitively
despite their illiteracy.
They cannot comprehend
this man’s audacity.
Comparatives mean nothing.
They stake claim to “fanciest”
and will bide their time and claim
revenge with tooth and claw.

The birds bide their time
testing and flapping their wings,
a pair of hopeful appendages
holding the potential of soaring.
Feigned injury, pretend acceptance,
the man’s fallibility,
a quick beak maneuver.
They live for the possibility
of breaking their metal penitentiary
to fly into the firmament.

The dogs are defeated,
oppressed by love
and by loyalty.
“But he fancies us!
How can we betray him?
Centuries of bonding cannot be
shaken off like water from your coat.”
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Work in progress

Once, your poised, calm hand
moved deftly the wet dip pen
up, down: grained panels,

receding floorboards,
colour of old newspaper
a joke become art

'Harold and his pets –
Why, he could open a shop!
How would that look, now?'

Soft scratch of bright nib
tines open and close again
on the drying page

'Oh, he’s a quiet one,
I see him lurking by the wall,
cages on each side...'

and then paste and brush,
and the placement of photos,
dear menagerie

'Who’d be more alarmed –
Harold, or the customer?'
(to sounds of laughter)

then, to make all real
draw in the deep cast shadows
in fine cross hatching

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The truth behind sepia-tinted memories

The photograph is now so faded
that it no longer holds your bold essence.
But is it better to remember you
in soft shades of sepia instead?

Not knowing what to do
you sometimes made mistakes
and later regretted the things you said
and did.

You were always in the doghouse.

My memories of you are no longer in black and white
They are worn out around the edges,
singed by the heat of my mind and soul.

Romanticizing your presence in my life, I wonder
is this what I have been reduced to?
     Holding onto nostalgic memories
     filled with beautiful lies
     dressed in sepia?


tether & tender

In the summer of 2012 and the florid heat of peach-drenched Georgia, my best friend was my neighbor. She was a blonde that liked to be called a 'dirty blonde' and her house number was 212, the same number I use for all my usernames and passwords now.

"Cooper, no!"

A large retriever bounded around her carpet-lined house (hardwood cost more and hurt more). I pet him and discovered that he was soft in some places, mostly just the top of his head, but otherwise he was too rough, and I was convinced my friend had a severe impairment in her sense of touch because she couldn't keep her hands off of him.

I stand with my head above the bathroom sink and faucet in my mouth. Water bubbles into my mouth and gushes out and I try not to swallow it because it tastes like iron. Blood rinses into her sink, and I feel bad for making her mother hold my head as my teeth fall out and her white sink stains crimson. I wave awkwardly at her older sister, kinda emo, kinda nice, as she comes down the stairs, confused. I am too, but mostly scared.

That night I wonder what I did so wrong to Cooper. I figure it must be that I pet the only soft spot of his entire body, his entire soul, probably. Or maybe he hates girls who have the same color skin/fur as him. I touch the scar under my chin that I have to this day and wonder why Americans love dogs.

"This is Gizmo and Mittens!"

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