Thursday, 11 March 2021

who laps water with their tongue, who kneels down to drink

You will not see it. You will not know it. You will neither see nor know a small matted dog. Its tail curled under. Its lips curled back. Of the pack, not for the pack. Characterless and unrecognisable. A form with no features. My ears flattened to my head. The dust yellowed dog. I raise my muzzle. I followed the camp of your ancestors. Your gaze avoids me. I subsist at the distance of a stone’s throw. I shiver. I yelp. I whine. I am submissive and I am evasive. I am comedy. I dart, I scratch, I trot. I watch.My tongue half out. I lift my muzzle, three quick tastes of the breeze. My advance is now timid, later bold. I am pure hunger. But appetite must also wrestle fear. I am cloven. Both scavenged and scavenger. I am one with the living refuse drifting in circles at the bounds of your world. And you. You have rained down upon me the stones you find beneath your feet. But by the time you look up with another in your hand I am gone. I stand my ground beneath your stones. Know me as pariah, faithful to the shallow grave of my murdered master. Or, know me, fanged ghoul at bay above the buried kill. My body flinches but does not flee. You have poured blame like libation upon my hangdog neck. You have mended your sheep fence against me. I am still here, at the same distance. I dwell upon unhallowed ground. If you can, imagine now a creature feeding at its own wound. I am thrown forward by hunger and back by injury. I see my flesh, I devour it. I feel my teeth, I shrink from them. My bite rising, tangled with my pain. Just now you almost saw me, as revenant, its shadow thrown monstrously, of something left out of what you have done, your well-maintained interior - its hinted mayhem. I am what is left over from the belonging to the others’ belonging to their world.  But you cannot turn your gaze upon me. I dwell in the corner of your seeing. I desire my own taming. This night I was drawn to the heart of your world. It was the season of your local festivities, now almost at an end. You laugh with others who will soon be finding their way to their own beds. You laugh like an enemy, like someone who dies unexpectedly in another’s story. There is something about where I am situated, relative to you, levering your aversion. Now, you wait in a patch of light at the edge of the settlement, beneath the string of swaying lanterns. I sense you are about to leave the camp for the last time, and abandon yourself finally to the desert and to the night. But there is something else, a sort of feint or stratagem in your stance, there is something all too doglike in your slinking which disturbs my awareness just enough for me not to look closer. You are heading away but gazing back. You are looking over your shoulder, your ears back, the lips of your narrow muzzle tight in a grin of small teeth. You are watching for my move, looking back over your shoulder, as if you are leaving, but your concentration is fixed under one of the long tables on on something fig-sized, trodden in, and left behind. It is for this that you might risk your sudden return. But the comet of the village celebration has entered the midnight of its long tail. Might you rush forward and take it? Wanting it without knowing what it is. Wanting to take it, if only because it is in my place. You will try to take it or you will not.  You will stay just long enough in the lanterns’ light, swaying, flickering in the breeze before dawn. You will stay there just long enough for me to think I know where you are. And if I keep you off today, then something like you on another day will cross the clearing of the eternal camp and it will carry off what I had thought belonged to me, and I will chase it out into the darkness over the uneven ground. And every time I stumble in my hopeless pursuit I will look back over my shoulder at the hanging lanterns moving very slightly, always a little further away, just as you are looking back at me now, held in this other pool of light. And then I will be standing in your place, in your dark and rising tide of loneliness, and amazed at my own defeat. And those who will stand where I stand now, those soon to be going to their beds, will look out at me for the last time, even as I vanish from their world, and they will see nothing but a small dog, matted and unrecognisable.