Colin Dardis is a poet, editor and sound artist based in Belfast. He's been listed in the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing, Over The Edge New Writer of the Year Award and Best Reviewer of Literature, Saboteur Awards 2018, and published widely in Ireland, the UK and the US. Colin co-runs Poetry NI, a multimedia poetry platform, co-edits FourXFour Poetry Journal, and co-hosts the monthly open mic night, Purely Poetry. His latest collection is The Dogs of Humanity.
The Unforgettable Dog
I told you the story of that day, remember,
the one with us on the sandstone promenade,
the bay’s breath hushed, just for us. And how
into the day came one remarkable dog,
alone, no collar, no tag, no visible owner.
He held a gnarled tennis ball,
tracking beside us, the request obvious.
And how we marvelled at this dog
running and leaping, corkscrewing backwards
mid-air, to snatch the ball in his God-crafted jaws
every time. Our smiles grew. And then he ran off,
disappeared over the rocks and back to a home
of which we would never know.
I told you our story, of these few minutes.
You could not remember. Knew of no dog,
denied the beach, dredged out the bay.
And because you could not remember,
never beside me, never with some dog,
then it did not happen; the story undone
in one simple act of forgetting.
The experience shared is the memory shared
and without memory, who do we become?
Perhaps you ran off too, somewhere,
over the rocks, away from pools and foam;
or perhaps the tide came in, unseen,
to wash you clear of my life,
leaving me astray, astounded,
observing, remembering a lie.
Back then, you would go through the stages:
the voice box, the hair sprouts, the growth spurts;
now, you just stage passing Go
and pretend to hit all the required stations
while collecting your pay check at the end of the month.
And the thing about a Monopoly board
is that it’s really a circle,
and the only way out is either bankruptcy or jail.
Some of us get to land on Mayfair
or Park Avenue, but most sure can’t afford
to stay there very long.
The rent collectors are out with their long knives
and the taxman is looking
to take everything you inherited:
from your father’s shoelaces
to your mother’s good graces and charm.
But I hid everything
in a deposit box somewhere,
left it to rust
and utilised nothing of my fortune;
that’s why I’m such
a miserable wretch nowadays:
the dregs of the dogs,
down to his last stage
There are no refunds, no guarantors,
and no one to underwrite your screw-ups.
God is coming to collect
and the riches He expects
won’t be found in your pockets.
The Humane Animal
How many are dying tonight?
How many tonight are listening
to make sure someone else is still breathing,
the dark seconds of void
where neither breath nor movement exist
and the other side of the bed
is the unconquerable distance
of a consciousness.
How many can’t sleep tonight?
How many are unable to lay
despite their blackout curtains
drawn to the world,
the futility of fresh sheets
and lumbar support as useless
as an alarm clock for insomniacs.
How many are scared tonight?
How many want to burrow into the nest
like the newly-hatched cuckoo
and cry the loudest in order to be fed,
waiting to be recognised
as an imposter amongst the living
and thrown out of their present.
How many are unanswered tonight?
We all are. We all are. We all are.
The Unforgettable Dog: the x of y (Eyewear Publishing),
now copyright of the author
Stages / The Humane Animal: The Dogs of Humanity
(Fly on the Wall Press)