TAXIDERMY IN BURNING HOUSE
Patrick James Errington
Above all, he is careful. Unlacing the body,
is a process of exchange, a structure of one
In the cradle behind the ribs, he plays
of decay. He lines the vaulted organs, meticulous
always fancied himself a conservationist. But he
next, their blood-sack economies depressed
table is a scatter of excess, indivisible
hardening. The glass begins to sweat, like—No,
the mouth, heaped beneath the face, shut
for something, no, not quite like speech.
The eyes return each colour unused. Honey sifts
last time, loss finding a form it can keep.
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.