Monday, 28 April 2008

Pet Name Cemetery

'What did you just call me?' she asks
'What's that?', I stage-murmur, eyes like vices, 'huh?'
'What did you just call me?' repeated. The wrong kind of helpful.
My skull is a farmyard, there

a horse called 'problem' breaks into a trot
There's some sort of scraping downstairs.
I giggle a sob. I know what is scraping.
In a chalky second, I realise: it's here.

Tonight has been coming for weeks.
I hosed down the spade just Saturday gone
chasing crumbs of loam down through the gravel
breath-fogged, pristine backdrop, my flawless denial

In this town there's a place nobody talks about
As we shop for supplies and try to forget old loves
It's why nobody questions a disappearance
It makes us our monsters and makes monsters of us

Each night cars wait in the rain at the gate
Their boots gaping open; toothless and drooling
while figures shuttle in the dark for spades
for evergreen wreathes, for a cigarette's calm.

Each returns one last time for a stiff little bundle
and, glugging grief, carries it down into gloom
They can barely dig the tiny graves for crying
I know because I've have watched them.

I've seen what it takes to bury a Baby
I can tell you where Darling was laid when it died
I know where to dig if you want to find Sweetcheeks
I know what they done
with Sexybum

This is the secret of the Pet Name Cemetery
What you bury there never stays buried
Each cutesy word cooed claws its way through
and dappled with rot crawls back

we've all heard the stories
but scoff or solemnly promise that we won't ever
get so desperate. 'Better' we say 'to learn to forget,
to treat each pet name as the last' but still
-but still the plots get filled

on one night of weakness I was one of them
Found a spot in the rows of half decomposed nick-names
Where Boos and Honeys and Love-Pies are maggoted
Where sugars and shnuggles and pookums bleed mulch
I told her I was going to the shop
It took less than twenty minutes
I told her I'd got stuck in a conversation that went on and on.
'It was boring'
I told her this.

It's crawled a mile to where I'm standing
in my hallway ignoring the questions shouted from the bedroom
leaning towards the source of the scratching
Legs wet, fists locked
Tonight it's back
Rheumy red eyes, open throat snarling
Tonight it's back
A compost crusted rug, claws deep in the wood
Tonight it's back
A pattern of vowels always lodged in the throat
Tonight it's back
A word that can petrify
Tonight it is back
Woojum is back
Woojum is here
Woojum is here

If you stay here you have to accept the damp climate
You have to avoid naming your car
You have to address everyone by their full name
You cannot celebrate Valentines

you must do these things because too many failed to
We know not to go there. All of us do.
And who could doubt that you're done with that pet-name?
But the pet-name is not done with you.

1 comment:

Moxy said...

Hello Hicks, I think The Pet Name Cemetery is terrific: oh it's a glorious piece -- all your own -- but with shivers running down through Stephen King's Pet Sematary and the classic, The Monkey's Paw. Lovely, ghoulish and a fantastic riff on human relationships. Hats off to you, Mr Hicks!