New Voices: April | Richard O’Brien

Fur Drop

What worlds
we build
to keep
the wild
we killed.

What lives
we lead
so we
can guard
the treats
we need.

What beasts
we are
to wrap
such fear
our fur.

What would
we give
to let
us save
the warmth
we love?

Who would
we kill
to spare
from ill
what keeps
us whole?


I heard
they break
the necks
of birds

and pull
their guts
and all

out quick
as surgeons
a stitch

to keep
the meat
from spurts
and leaks

of bile
that spills
and spoils
the whole

the sour
the taste
of fear

and if
I were
a bird
my love

my wings
gone numb
this one
weird trick

might be
the only

to clean
my flesh
to set
me free

Dog Tag

The country where my father killed a man,
       A man comes to your house with a syringe
or many men — he didn’t stick around
      around 2pm. You offer him tea, biscuits.
to find out, as he once explained — is somewhere
      ‘Is there somewhere peaceful?’ You say ‘Here’s fine.’
I could barely find on a map, and when
      And then he kneels down, syringe in hand
or why it happened I can’t even tell you:
tells you it’s for the best, and when he rises
what side we backed, or what weapons he used.
      you used to have two dogs, and now you don’t.
The plain facts are so far from right or wrong
      All wrong: the other in the next room whining,
it seems to mean as much as public spitting:
spitting his dog treat out onto the floor.
you’ve done it, but, you know, not all the time.
      A time has passed. A new urn in the dog room:
He can’t have been as much as twenty-five,
      I’m twenty-five. I met him as a puppy,
a baby on the way. Was there a rescue,
      a rescue who we gave a different name:
something worth saving, or a coup to rumble?
     Grumble before: too fast, too boisterous.
A daring mission? A flat-out assault?
      His salt-and-pepper jaw. Tumours on his chin.
Somebody neither of us knew is dead.
      Dead-lift. Two carry him to the open boot.
A dog tag round an urn. A tired arm-chair.
      Hair on the seats. Poor Captain, coughing blood.

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