After the Parasites Came

After the Parasites Came

I draw my grandfather’s lungs
in charcoal spit the fluid in his throat; tremor
in art as is the shaking
hands when he goes to lift the tea to his lips.

Making leaves in old mugs transferred to sipping
cups and the brief illumination of
the body choking on life.

All the sounds of his life are the sounds of death;
pumps and footsteps, Scouse laughter whistling
heat lamps like a surgical table
(running through a temporary, heartattack wall)
– the wheeze of 87 years in grey plastic and taped up tubes
(we need to return it when he’s dead).

Does the light in your eyes show you your dead son,
or has the baby’s cry of Jesus followed me from one room to the next?

Would you have let me grow my hair, and shave
my wrists rather than my jaw and read
books on French existence and homosexuality?

– Arthur! if you’d had your strength!

Meat when living, now a king in his Camelot;
hospice nurses bring sunlight,
chatting to bone and open eyes;

Who said death was a private affair,
after the parasites came?

I never knew you were an atheist,
and I pretended to God on your bedroom floor,
where you’d left him after Michael died.

Afterwards, we heard Nan perform her Cleopatra,
and beg a gone you to hold the door wherever atheists go.

I think she wants to be buried in a church;
while we all dress up for your cremation and spend more
on your coffin than you ever had
in your pockets
after the parasites came.

When the undertakers came, blood of my blood stood
behind them to make sure meat was treated right.

What dignity, Arthur, in your death!

Empty gums and stained dentures on a flat tongue,
tasting shadow rabbit stew;
miner’s muscles flat on the bed;
mechanic’s mind gone senile – all the
parasites agree.

For My Sweet Delirium

Currently I am drunk, forced by myself and the Guinness and the Whiskey into a state of such honesty that I dare not even attempt to lie. This little post-type-thing has been inspired by My Sweet Delirium’s (Christa Wojo)Existential Nihilism & the Dead Dog Blues’ post. If, in any way, you find offence in this post, I apologise, but I loved my dog and this is not a fiction. I wish it were, that my dog might still be here.

Roscoe seemed like, not merely a good dog, but a fantastic friend. The way he offered you companionship unknowable to another human, the way you say that he ‘tolerated your loser boyfriends’ and that the pair of you grew up together; he doesn’t seem to have been merely a pet, he was a friend.
I understand.

One hundred and forty six days ago my own dog died. Her name was Lady, a half-mongrel off-shoot of a Lancashire Terrier, and she had lived with us for almost, what, fourteen years? I cannot complain that her life was stolen from her unjustifiably, that she hadn’t enjoyed herself, or that it wasn’t a good thing that she died when she did, seeing as she was a rescue dog nearing on twenty.

Once we rescued her she was a hell-hound, a modern-day Cerberus confined into one head. On the very first day I met her she bit me, a deep score into my calf, but it wasn’t her fault. I was new to her, I held her as I shouldn’t, and so she retaliated in the way her previous owner’s had forced her to. I refused to let my parents, wary of her aggression, take her back, refused to submit her into the death lottery of the RSPCA.

Though she was, technically, my parents’ dog, it was I who sat with her in the evenings, I who carried her to bed, who walked her and held her close on those irritating evenings when the fireworks screamed through the air like captives tied to boulders. I loved that dog, she was my one companion through the illnesses I suffered in my younger days, through the misery and the depression for which I was prescribed medication.

When I moved away for the first year of university I found myself unable to stay away for the weekends, simply because I missed her so. I would wake up sometimes, in the early hours when I had a class a few hours afterwards, filled with a panic for Lady’s security. I rang home so often, I visited home every other weekend, merely to make sure she was okay.

A few years ago she had a series of terrifying strokes, each one leaving her a drooling wreck on our carpet. Every time I would hold her, or I would rush back from university to hold her with excuses of a vague family illness in my tutor’s ears, and I would tell her that it would be okay. It wasn’t, of course. After the first, she became deaf and could no longer hear my sympathies. After the second her arthritis grew until the mere act of walking was an agony, a visual pain one could see in her every shaking movement. She wouldn’t drink, to the point where I had to syringe water between her lips.

She would eat though, it seemed to be the one pleasure she had left. She would eat anything and everything within reach, would surreptitiously steal the ham from my sandwiches and the bacon from my English Breakfasts. I loved that dog.

She lost control of her functions, and she slept with me. I would awake to find her refuse spread along my floor, in staccato paw-prints. Puddles of her urine would form miniscule oceans beside my bed and, after a while, she couldn’t sleep upstairs. We had to lock her in the kitchen, with her bed and water and food, in order to make her sleep at all. Her weight dropped quickly. I loved Lady and, even now, I would exchange any one of you for one more cuddle in the armchair we shared.

She was dying for a long time and, when she did, it was obvious. Her chest was expanding, the rapid tattoo of an overused lung and her throat emitted a wet bubbling sound, the kind of which I had never before heard. I knew she was dying and I fed her everything, gave her as many of her biscuits as she could stomach, gave her ham and bread and tea and all those things which she loved as a younger dog.

I’m crying now and I wish this were a letter, that you might see the stains upon the paper. We lay together by the fire and her breath grew worse, every exhalation a torture. I was holding her head and telling her that she was my girl, that no one else mattered as much as she, that she was my best friend and that I loved her. Her heart stopped several times and I rubbed at her chest, each time feeling the organ kick back into life. She was so scared, and I tried God knows I did to offer her companionship.

My face was against hers and I could taste the rot n her breath. Every time her heart stopped I pumped it into life, but it was past midnight and I was tired and I couldn’t keep my muscles moving, I couldn’t save her. Had I been stronger, had I been some modern-day Atlas, she could still be alive. We could lay before the fire and I could drag her back from oblivion with every movement of my fingertips.

I could see the terror, the misunderstanding in her eyes and I forced myself not to cry, instead providing her with kisses and platitudes she couldn’t fucking hear. What a fool I must have been, showing such compassion to a dg, when I would have long since abandoned any human being!

When she died, when the last breath left her body and my fingers burnt too much to keep her heart pumping, I couldn’t cry. My parents did, my sister pretended to for the attention it could garner to her, but I wrapped her in her blanket, in one of my jackets and laid her in a quiet spot in our back garden. Had it been up to me, I would have dug her a grave then and there, fighting the chill air with my tears, but no.

She was cremated early the next morning, and her ashes destroyed. I felt no sympathy for the corpse; it wasn’t Lady. It was meat and bone and, then, ash and air. Nothing more and nothing less. My Lady was gone.

I drank for long days thereafter. I had prior engagements, to which I forced myself to go, and burst into silent tears every time I was able. The wine and the Guinness and the cheaper alternatives flowed down my throat and I didn’t notice. My companions, all of whom are capable of drinking much more than I, were drunk whilst I wept out the alcohol. I would kill to bring Lady back.

I hated myself then. Had I been stronger, capable of constant massage, she might have lived forever. What narcissism it was, to expect sympathy and, in fact, demand it, for the death of my best friend. Surely Lady should have been mourned, and not my loss? I lost a lot of friends in those few days, when I drank too much and raged at them for the slightest indiscretion.
But, anyway, that is all my, semi-drunken, self desired to say.

I miss Lady still, as I am sure you miss Roscoe, and I wish I had some platitude to offer you. Had I your email, Christa Wojo, I would have sent this to you, rather than post it for all to see, but I do not. I hope you read this as I meant it, and find no offence within it, but if you do I, again, sincerely apologise for it. It hurt, mere moments ago, when I realised I have no pictures of her, all of them deleted from my phone in a drunken rage and never transfered from my laptop to my desktop. I must havesome, I know, and will add them to this post as soon as I can find them, but otherwise what a monster must I be, to wipe a love from my life in such a manner?

Forgive me, I am drunk and know not what I say, but I loved Lady and, were I capable of believing in a Heaven, I’m sure Lady and Roscoe would be playing together, even now,