Two Poems

Alan Dixon

Little Blotter to her Master, and his Reply

It is sad in the grave my master, my chosen
Who fed me and stroked me and clicked on the fire,
And though you tried to make me comfortable
And laid me down gently, wrapped in a towel,
And dropped in forget-me-nots and daisies
– Day’s eyes for mine, to die here with me –
It is sad to think I must lie here forever.

So I beg you, before too long has gone by,
While there is still a little flesh and skin left,
And an inch or two of a whisker or two,
To lift me out so that I feel the air again,
Though I know I shall only feel it faintly.

But that faint freshness of the air
Will bring back a thin slice of fur-wrapped moon
And the evening star, its small companion
Of my last bright nightfall in the garden,
And the provoking song of the robin
And, slipping away, the sad song of the willow wren
Which I did not think so beautiful then.

How grateful I would be to you my master, my chosen,
Now I shall need your food no longer,
Just once more to be above the ground
While I still feel a little, though less and less,
Even if all I know is that you have lifted me.
I know I shall need to be buried again.

I shall keep you company in the garden:
Whenever you touch the others you’ll think of me.

O Blotter, our first cat, who started the madness
– The individuation of cats as the unlived selves –
It is better that you stay at rest in the grave I dug for you
After finding you dead on the green cloth,
Your gums as green as snails, your body hard and Stiff,
Even your ears stiff, though your tail could be tucked in.
There is a way of speaking as if through the soil
With that living part of you in our memory,
And it is not really you – who asked so often
And asked so clearly – but it is I
Asking for you to be borrowed briefly from death,
Like the child I was, demanding the impossible.
But I beg you to forgive me if I am wrong ...
I shall cut on the gravestone our kisses and your name.

B & B at the Manor Farm

1

Shaggy on flowered, squared on mottled and plain
And easy under her delicate slippered foot
The layers of rugs and carpets have been spread
So that when you climb to your room your dusty boot
Stumbles as if you were stepping out of a cove,
Your ‘Oops!’ unheard. She opens a room, rolls up
A bit of a mat which gets in the way of the door;
She mutters at it. Jackdaw, rook, robin and dove
Flavour the green of the tiny sunlit square
Of window.
The house had emerged from a dip
Of green verdure and paint as you confronted it
And tried to open the freshly painted gate
You really knew was no longer a way to go in
Despite the cannonballed gatepost and washing beyond,
As so many windows were bricked and blind
And geese commanded the pathless space in front
Lush with redleg and grass, where forgotten hid
A ball the ivy had toppled from its pyramid.

2

A landscape in itself the undulant wall –
A county, even a country in itself,
Of smooth green hills made fresh green year by year,
With wrinkles, caves, rock faces here and there,
Rich with suggestion to the childish mind,
Or heaving dragon's back on which to ride
Not thinking it was paint on paint on paint,
But skin on skin over the bony wall.

3

You wonder why, with ‘Forgive’ and ‘Suspense’ outside,
You need not be haunted, admonished by anything more
Than flowers in thousands massed on the bedroom wall,
Until your towelled foot has opened wide
The struggle of Mickey Mouse to reach Pluto's boat
In the green and shark-finned waves of the muttered mat.

4

In which room is breakfast? You find her buttering
Roughly cut bread on the billowed cloth ...
Where is the man who pulled seventy-five from the sea?
A half-sharp son emerges at her call;
Though she asked for a pen he brings you a pound.
A wobbling refill is all he is able to find ...
Bacon and eggs with bread and sausages spluttering;
She has forgotten you. You ask her name
To write on the cheque, and you recall the same
On the lifeboat service record framed near the door,
Explaining his strong absence throughout the house.