[ToC]

 

TAXIDERMY IN BURNING HOUSE

Patrick James Errington

 

 

Above all, he is careful. Unlacing the body,
a line white and patient as paper. His

is a process of exchange, a structure of one
for another, motion for motion, transaction.

In the cradle behind the ribs, he plays
the horologist, unwinding the mechanisms

of decay. He lines the vaulted organs, meticulous
as Murano glass, rasping out the rot. He has

always fancied himself a conservationist. But he
must work harder now, more quickly. The lung

next, their blood-sack economies depressed
beneath a formalin haze. The heart-pocked

table is a scatter of excess, indivisible
remainder. Wet boundaries of preservation

hardening. The glass begins to sweat, like—No,
there's no time left. The mouth, now—of course

the mouth, heaped beneath the face, shut
into an expression of averages. He sets the lips

for something, no, not quite like speech.
Something harder, older. Feathers curl in the heat.          

The eyes return each colour unused. Honey sifts
between the sinews, a reader returning one

last time, loss finding a form it can keep.

 

 

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I suppose the seed of this piece was planted by a conversation I had with Timothy Donnelly about the impossible preservative nature of poetry. Many poems—many of my poems, at least—are vain attempts to preserve moments, impressions, thoughts, feelings. Things that are inevitably burned up. They're a bit gruesome really, these taxidermied animals of previous selves. And yet there's something so human in trying to make things last, even as we know that they can't (just ask Ozymandias). This poem is, for me, a sort of ars poetica, a grappling with precision and preservation as, all the while, things come apart. And so I see the poem itself as an attempt at careful arranging and display, before being cut short by the encroaching fire.