Thursday, 22 July 2010

Old, Imperfect Sonnet - The Way We Live Now (2004)

We have a dog called Como. Sometimes
the hot water works and the bathroom steams
in the mornings; often not. There is always
hair in the plughole. The space between
front door and front gate is covered
by a brownness of used-to-be leaves
frozen into a range of toe-stubbing
little mountains. One of us will retrieve
the old ground in the spring, probably.

Como sleeps between us on the coldest
nights. The way we are is dangerously
safe, like heavy drinking or incest.
Everey night before bed one of us calls
the dog. If he doesn't come we fuck. Day falls.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Life's Too Short To Save The Fucking Panda Bear

A lump forms in her throat when she reads the leaflet. It's not so much the picture - sad though it is - of the giant helpless creature with its paws in its lap. It's the text. Badly written and melodramatic, rife with the kind of hyperbole you usually associate with salespeople, it nonetheless speaks to her on a visceral level. She nearly cries. She must still be half-drunk from last night.

It might have been the postman that had woken her, or the blade of light that had moved from her fiances face to hers where she had failed to draw the curtains tight in her night-drunkenness. Anyway she had woken earlier than normal, warm and light-headed.

The panda leaflet is her only post. It came in an envelope with her name on it and a free pen inside to make her feel guilty, although the first thing she feels on reading about the plight of the panda bear is not really guilt. At least she doesn't think so. It's more like a tinge of preliminary sadness. Then almost straight away she wonders how the hippies got her address to send her this stuff. She is always very careful about giving her address to people.

But back to the sadness. It isn't anything to do with the individual giant panda, the fluffed-up asexual clown looking out hangover-eyed from the piece of paper in front of her. And it's not the kind of sadness you feel when your pet dog gets stomach cancer and has to be put to sleep. It's more of a personal kind of despondency, one that you can only feel in the early morning after you've been drinking and making plans that you are unlikely ever to fulfil, when your head is clear and you are fully awake and have just eased the dry horror of your mouth with half a pint of really cold grapefruit juice.

This is when she nearly cries.

She nearly cries because she never gives money to tramps and has never been to a Scottish island, because she kills moths and doesn't care when the cat Erwin brings in partially dismembered frogs that dance circles in their own cold blood, because she is nearly thirty. And because she lives with a man who wears shit-coloured suits and works for English Heritage putting things in boxes, and who still brings her flowers and talked her out of becoming a pesco-vegetarian.

She doesn't cry.

She turns on her laptop and Googles 'conservation volunteering', gets a string of websites showing persuasive photographs: a proud Eritrean farmer with immaculate teeth, the tragi-comic lump of a giant tortoise. It seems you have to pay for the privilege of saving the planet these days, but even so she registers her email address with one of the sites before her headache materialises out of nowhere.

The tine of sunlight in the bedroom has not moved: it bisects her pillow. She draws the curtain and gets back into bed without waking her fiance, who is called Steve and who will only cheat on her once before he dies in car accident at the age of forty-one. A brown suit hangs on the back of the door. She sets her alarm so she can iron his shirt.