Badly stuffed animals
I knew these people who loved their pets so much
they had them put to sleep and stuffed
and mounted in the living room
because they couldn’t bear
the grief of losing openly.
Filled out with wood and wool
articulated with wire
eye sockets packed with glass:
death’s only a pause.
They said don’t be scared
it’s something to share, something
for the visitors.
I knew people who stuffed their pets so badly
that pictures of their loved ones
went up on a website called Badly Stuffed Animals
a place where pets became fixed stars.
Cast in the stone
of their own skin and hair; there the animals were home
in their wrong eyes
and buckled teeth
and skin with old air rumpling through;
with nonsense postures to have and hold them.
There was a farming family I knew, had
a blonde fawn in their living room. There it lay
with legs curled under its body.
Like a houseplant it had been placed
at the foot of the piano that was never opened.
There was something funny about that.
A fawn with a piano for a mother.
The farming family laughed about that.
I once had a lamb. Its mother had died
and the farmer had too many orphans already. Such is life
when life comes too early.
I kept him in the shed. Gave him a cardboard box, stuffed
with towels for a bed. I fed him from a bottle
and visited him at night when I worried
he was scared. When the light came on he ran to me.
His bleating was broken and ridiculous. Of all the lambs
to need a mother! When he grew up the farmer
took him away. You weren’t supposed to be sad
because lambs are for eating
so I sat on the swing and forgot him.
But I cried when we buried our dog in the garden.
Being dead is too easy. You have to remake it.
This owl has a self-conscious look.
That leopard sinks its teeth into a monkey’s head.
That stag’s head lolls its tongue. This little donkey
has a Dali crutch
in place of front legs. That chimpanzee wears
long strings of white pearls
and clutches a sculpture of Jesus on the cross.
Their nonsense postures have and hold them.
Ashleigh Young is an expat writer and editor living in London. Her work has appeared in Booknotes, Turbine, Sport, and Landfall. She is currently finishing a collection of poems. 2009 was a big year for Ashleigh, she was the winner of the 2009 Landfall Essay Competition and the recipient of the 2009 Adam Foundation Award in Creative Writing. Ashleigh also appears in Best NZ Poems 2009 and this year in The Best of Best New Zealand Poems. This is far from overnight success though, Ashleigh has been working hard behind the scenes and has been appearing in print since 2003 with a poem in Sport. She's been a regular contributor to Booknotes since 2005. Ashleigh started blogging from London, it a great, curious, read.
This is a new poem from her forthcoming book of poetry, it's classic Ashleigh - beautiful and disturbing and awkward all at the same time. Ashleigh had a poem here last year too.
For more Tuesday Poems go to the Tuesday Poem hub.