Forget crows, panthers, alligators and sharks;
the dog is the poet’s true familiar. The hours
of inaction spent sprawled out on a rug; the eager
fetch and carry of almost anything you care to throw
them; the way they fool you into thinking
they understand every word you are saying;
how they like to be fed and watered regularly;
how they smell of the forest floor when they are damp.
And don’t forget the selective memory. All of the above,
and the fact that they are happiest when lying
in the corner of a room inspecting their private parts.
You’re reading a novel, you flip the page, then: this. What happens next? How do you read this? Do you read or do you view (as you would a poster, perhaps)? Do you zoom in on the larger fonts, go straight for the centre, maybe, or zig-zag your way through the text? Do you ignore a slight feeling of disorientation and read from top-left to bottom-right, the way you were taught to? Does a ‘text’ like this even belong in a novel?
When we enter a text, it is impossible to do so unstained, uncomplicated by (our) history. We come to it with a set of expectations on the basis of which we will form judgements relating to form, content – to the text’s success. The title of my new novel, Verses Nature, has been chosen with care. Be ready for a new experience. Be ready to throw some of your assumptions overboard. As my protagonist says: ‘if you want to grow, you have to give up something(s). Always.’
Bernadette. My first sexual encounter. I was thirteen, she was forty and pregnant; in the fourth month, with her fourth child. A redheaded woman whose body was already exhausted.
She had called over to my mum to ask her, Hello, can you send the boy over to help me out, thank you so much. Of course I didn’t want to go. Word would get round that I was a good lad. I knew what that would mean; I’d be running errands for every old woman of the village and sitting out cups of tea and mounds of stale biscuits instead of getting real money for my pains. No thanks! Mother sent me off with a shove in the back and a clip on the ear. When I’m grown up, I thought, I’m gonna bash you lot back. You’ll see how nice it is!
Hardly had I got through the door, she grabbed me and ripped my clothes off. Bloody Nora! That day, I ran over to her house at least 9 times. Mother didn’t mind. One less mouth to feed this evening, she laughed, at least my children are proper Christians, she said, a clothes’ peg in her mouth.
The next time I saw him I told the curate that I could never become a clergyman.
‘Why not, my son?’
Live without sex? I’d rather go to hell in a hand cart.
‘Lick my clit. No, not like that, not so hasty.’
For a minute it bothered me that there was a baby up there jiggling around and watching us. But only for a minute. The strongest muscle in the human body is the tongue. I didn’t know that. Bernadette did. She knew a lot. Bernadette says he would have taken my faith if he had said I could fuck around on the sly and still remain pious.
‘You can’t have it all, my dear, no one can. Mmmm, that’s nice. Now stick your tongue in. Can you whistle? Oh my lord, he can!’
He took my faith by not saying this, don’t you see? Those hypocrites fuck anything that moves, every widow, widower and child.
‘Indeed they do. Can you pop over tomorrow?’ She kissed me on the forehead before pushing me towards her front door. I stuck my finger in her one more time on the way out. I got a clip on the ear, but she was all smiles.
I reckon Bernadette knows what she’s talking about.