Skip to main content

The One that Got Away...

Last time I was talking about how much I've learnt in the business of putting a book together, even a very slim one. It's a bit like packing to go away - there isn't enough room for everything you wanted to include.  So some stuff just doesn't make it. A shame really, to discard poems you spent a lot of time on and got fond of.  But such is life.

So here's one that got away.

Actually, it got away in another sense. In a sequence looking at and thinking about suicide, this was one of the very few that describes a non-suicide - a suicide that almost was, but wasn't.  

It's also special in that it's a description of a genuine event.  Of course, in trying to imagine certain aspects, I'm making it up, but the main story's completely true.

A further reason - spoiler alert - for my sadness at its getting-away is that the hero, the saviour, is a dog.  Had it not been for her dog... 
high time to give you the poem.



Here we go then

Here we go then.
I have pushed out every one –
smooth white bombs, little tablets
lined up on the table
where I eat my meals.  Each one
leaves an exploded crater
waiting now, its shell intact
to hatch in darkness
seen by no one.

My dog looks up
hearing me talk.  You’ll be
all right I say. He listens to my words.
I’ve opened several tins –
that’s three days’ meals.
He won’t go hungry.
And the door’s wedged open
so he can go out when he wants.
I’ve cared for him.

Here is my tea
with the usual two spoons, plus another –
I know how they’re bitter pills.
Amitryptilline – the word
rolls off the tongue. I stir in the last sugar,
saying the word, savouring it,
then say it again, and once more –
one each for the sugars.
He turns his head

to look at me.
It’s time to go, I say out loud.
Perhaps he understands.
But you’ve got all you need –
I’ve made sure of that.
I pick them up – a handful –
and I gobble from my open hand,
like a dog with his face in the bowl.
One rolls away

which he follows
under the table, then looks up.
I’ll just go all sleepy I say
and you’ll be all right, just like I said.
I’m at the end of the line
and that’s the last of the tea. Now
I’ll go to lie down, as if it’s night time –
you do the same I tell him.
He follows me

looking worried.
He won’t settle down – somehow
he knows.  He’s upset.  I reach out
to him.  He comes closer.  Just
sleep I repeat.  But not quite the same.
How will he be when I don’t wake up,
not responding and when I am smelling
different?  His pain and distress come to my mind
his reactions –

the whines and the
barking. Softly at first, to wake me up
gently.  Then louder, and louder.
Where has she gone when she’s here?
Won’t any one hear? He’ll pull
on my clothes, lick at my flesh
then bound around and do it again –
his pain and distress all getting worse –
where will it end?

I can’t do this.
I cannot do this to such a loyal friend.
I get up and go to the phone
999.  Yes, an overdose.
They want the details –
my age, the place, the number of tablets –
that’s enough. They’re on their way.
I put down the phone. Here we go then.
And hug my dog.



But it was a close run thing - she almost died.
One that got away... just.









Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A plague on all these houses

It's a great poem, Lowell's For the Union Dead.
I only recently came across it - at least, that's what I thought - but it's been grunting (I choose the word advisedly) away in my head ever since, especially that fourth verse.

Behind their cage,
yellow dinosaur steam shovels were grunting
as they cropped up tone of mush and grass
to gouge their underworld garage.

It took a little while for me to realise why.
Before (I thought) I'd read it, I wrote a poem about the new housing estates springing up round our little town. I was thinking about the various creatures that had lived on the field that was to be covered with houses - sheep primarily - and then those that were to follow.

The first were, well, a sort of dinosaur.

Here's my second verse:

At first it was the one-armed monsters,
set free within their caged arena
to trundle round, and gently paw
the ground, then pile up mounds of earth
accompanied by Lego men.

I was pleased with my trope, so muc…

Do you remember an inn, Miranda? Do you remember...

Of course I knew that poetry can short circuit.
That’s the point of it really – to go straight from the centre of one’s being – the deep heart’s core – to another, perhaps not needing even to think.Like music, poetry can fly: cut directly through clutter – all those habits, pretence and assorted nonsense and trivia of everyday so-called grown-up life, to ancient memories, deep-seated experiences and relationships, and love itself.
I’ve been reminded of this vital ability of poetry by the recent happy experience of working with an amazing National Memory Day Project.Literature Works at Plymouth University, in partnership with the Poetry Archive, supported by the Alzheimer’s Society put out a call to train and commission poets to use poetry to help people living with memory loss.
The idea was that by reviving memories through the shared recollection of much-loved poems, confusion might be alleviated, conversation encouraged, speech difficulties eased and creativity stimulated.
Learning…

Some art work is like poetry...

Some art work is like poetry.
Of course, much isn’t – at least obviously.Many a huge oil painting is closer to drama – perhaps even better, opera.Most portraits are more or less representational, especially in pre-photographic times.Landscapes are records, as are Still Lifes…
But realising that all these may have emotion imbued or expressed, indeed that the very reason for painting or drawing is to offer a unique individual’s point of view, I appreciate that I’m arguing against myself.
Still, when pictures strive to be succinct and every line has to count, when a whole story is told with deceptive simplicity, when so much is expressed in a compressed form and when there’s an acute awareness of a sense of balance, harmony, even rhythm (I can’t pretend rhyme has a place in visual art) – well then they share much with poetry.
And none more so than Hans Holbein’s sequence of The Dance of Death.
41 tiny images – each no bigger than a match box – depict Death in the form of a skeleton, ca…