REEK

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As if a grave had opened up beneath us; 
something had crawled under the floorboards 
to die all summer. What do you think it is? 
Where did it come from? A mouse, worse, 
a rat?
And the dining room of all places. 

We walked above that death for weeks, 
gauging daily the strength of its reek, 
until it didn’t seem to matter that much. 
We were shunned, of course, no one seeing fit 
to visit us, and there were days when, I admit, 

I thought that drastic measures were called for. 
Why had it chosen us of all people, our floor 
to slide beneath and die? A badge of honour, 
you said, it must have known it would rest in peace 
with us, undisturbed until the process ceased. 

The flies proved an altogether different matter, 
an incessant soundtrack to that long summer 
of your degradation, their bright alumni 
clouding around a body we could not see, 
helping it on its way, on its journey 

through death’s staging posts --- pallor
algor, rigor, livor ---until we stepped in at stage five, 
putrefaction, the breakdown of all organic matter. 
Surprising what we learn to live with, even love. 
I opened the door one day and you were gone. 

On all fours --- a cat --- I sought your smell one last time, 
nothing, not a whiff. What had you become --- 
a stain, a tat of hair, bones even a whisper would sweep 
away? Surprising what we learn to love. 
On all fours again, I hang my head and weep. 

◄ BLOW THE WIND SOUTHERLY

ROCK POOL ►

Comments

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Tony Hill

Sat 17th Oct 2020 17:21

Thanks for the kind words, Stephen. Based on a true story, as they say. Last year we were invaded by field mice. Caught over forty using humane traps and released them in a nearby field - I suspect they were simply returning to the house. One got under the floorboards and hence the poem. Tony

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Stephen Gospage

Sat 17th Oct 2020 17:08

An unusual and brilliant poem.

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