Black Dog.

February 26, 2007

It’s sitting at the bottom of my bed,
glossy, black coat absorbing light,
canine teeth like spears
grinning through its muzzle
in the moonlight.
Night after night,
it’s been lying there:
like a one stand
that never went home.

First of all I fed it.
Couldn’t bear its
huge, dark, inky eyes
shining in the gloom like saucers
but it wouldn’t eat –
left the treats and
gnawed at the duvet-
hopeful feathers
staining fur.

My friend said:
whatever you do
don’t feed it
.
I stopped. We sat
watching each other
for months. The growling
filled my flat like a fog horn.
Like something foreign
that shouldn’t be in this world.

My friend said:
ignore it
treat it like you would a child
,
as we sat drinking coffee
one Thursday.
The monstrous child
sat between us,
with oil slick fur and
teeth like knives.

When it started
smashing up the cups
and pouring
boiling hot coffee
into our laps
we talked about the weather
and politely ignored it.
It skulked in the corner
and whined for hours.

I wonder whether maybe
all it wants is love.
Being a monster must be hard.
Sometimes I play it music-
and that seems to help;
it lays on its back and
purrs like a cat-
sings like a thrush.

My mother always said
That if I wasn’t good
the monster underneath the bed
would come and eat me up.
I think she must have been
quite right – but if my dog
can sometimes bark
it doesn’t always
bite.

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5 Responses to “Black Dog.”

  1. Sinister and good. As much flash fiction as poem: I wonder if you’d considered a short story version? Am I imagining the faint double-entendre of ‘thrush’ or not?

    I very much like the images of the monster, contradictory, fluid, huge and sharp, an image you can’t put your finger on, that squirms out of reach when you try to define it.

    Nice work, Lydia. Hope you are well.

  2. kara said

    WOWZA! i found myself swimming between literal and not. there are several lines that stand out to me – “ignore it like you would a child” and “purrs like a cat – sings like a thrush.” another solid piece!

    i get the imagery of what you put in the last stanza from the get go – the proverbial scary monster under the bed just waiting – so my only suggestion if you rework this piece would be to lose the first five lines of the last stanza and end it with “but if my dog can sometimes bark it doesn’t always bite.” for some reason, the last bit lost a touch of power for me, though i can’t put my finger on why…

  3. badrabbit said

    I don’t know why I’m so surprised when I read poetry I like, I mean, it’s not like I’m a critic, or particularly dificult to please, but whenever I read something well written and lovely I feel shocked, and unsure of how to compliment…

  4. Thanks everyone.

    Alex: Yeah, I guess I quite like writing stuff with strong narrative-like the Mermaid piece I read at Word (Jump) and How the Tin Man Lost his Heart (also read at Word, but not up on the site). Having said that, I’ve tried writing short fiction and I don’t think much of my efforts. There’s something that I can do in narrative poetry that I can do with narrative on it’s own. Not sure about changing the title (the conversation we had the other day?) I ‘think as a metaphor for depression it’s important…my only reservations are about the references to black (in that and throughout the piece) I get thinking about Benjamin Zephaniah and his poem about Blackness (where he replaces black with white in common sayings – and I worry…

    Kara: Hey girl, nice to hear from you again:) Glad you mainly like it-Wowza was lovely. Think I might agree with you about that last verse. Definately struggely with it but haven’t yet come up with something better. I feel another ‘Apology’ coming on again! Might stick up some alternatives and ask for feedback.

    Badrabbit: Thankyou so much, you’ve made me feel so nice. Had a look at your site and really liked-the short piece of fiction I commented on especially. I’ll come back and read the longer one later. One thing, I’m so nosey-clicked on your ‘about’ button and came up blank. Now confused about whether you’re a man or a woman, live here in the UK or the US…though of course, none of this is any of my business! lol;)

  5. I haven’t read that Benjamin Zephaniah poem, but surely black is the colour of night and unseen things that scare one; it’s not racist. I would be surprised if black people actually love the dark and are scared of the white sun. It’s fairly universal to want to be able to see stuff. Anyway, black is a political term, there are actually very few ethnic groups who are actually black as opposed to brown. It sort of annoys me that race is still divided along 19th century lines, when ‘black’ is used for so many different ethnic groups and indeed different individuals, and the pot has always been melting us and spitting out rainbows.

    Anyway, it’s an affecting piece. See you round.

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