Friday, July 3, 2009

The Singing Bichon, a poem by Patrick Cotter.

The Irish poet Patrick Cotter was born in 1963 and educated at University College, Cork. After leaving college in the mid 80s, Cotter worked as Literature Officer at the Triskel Arts Centre before embarking on a career as a bookseller which ended in 2002. He continues to live and work in Cork as director of the Munster Literature Center. His poems have been translated into Estonian, Italian, Norse, Norwegian, Russian, Spanish and Swedish and he's given readings of his work in Ireland, California, Germany, Estonia, Norway, Italy and India. He's been shortlisted for both the Hennessy Award and the Patrick Kavanagh Award. Today's selection is from his first full-length collection of poems, Perplexed Skin, which was published by Arlen House in 2008.

The Singing Bichon by Patrick Cotter

My dog sings arias but only to me.
Mahler's Kindertotenlieder he knows
imperfectly. The In Paradisum
of Faure's requiem he renders
with a strong nasal strain.
He can't quite reach all the notes
of Purcells's The Plaint,
but hey, he's just a dog.

He began to sing
when I began to ignore him.
Neither of us can stand each other's company.
When he shakes his Bichon curls,
doggy whiffs tinged with bitter fermentations
assault the upper reaches of my nostrils.
His piss perfumes the corner of my living room
with a pungency made worse by the addition
(without obliteration) of the mop-bucket's
ammonia-based floor fluid.
I can't stand him because he smells.
He can't stand me because I'm impervious
to his plaintive, glistening eyes.

Regularly we each need to elude
the secret inner lives of our separate solitudes.
I, by listening to my music,
he by stepping outdoors to sniff
the arses of other dogs
or to beg attention of passing children.
After I ignored his whines to be let outside
he learnt to sing. That first night
I could not avoid paying attention
to his original interpretation
of Raphael Courteville's Creep, creep, softly creep
I released him. He arse-sniffed.

The following night I ignored his Courteville
and he sang something by Durefle.
I once tried to arrange a soiree
where I planned to accompany him on cello,
my living-room is too bijoux for the pianoforte,
but with the house full of guests
he had no solitude to escape
and no need to sing.
He doesn't know I know
he sings Rufus Wainwright
when he thinks I'm not around.
Smelly bastard.


Unknown said...

I like that one!

john cotter said...

I used to buy books from Patrick.

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