Poems from Fauverie by Pascale Petit (Seren - September 2014)
Arrival of the Electric Eel
Each time I open it I feel like a Matsés girl
handed a parcel at the end of her seclusion,
my face pierced by jaguar whiskers
to make me brave.
I know what’s inside – that I must
unwrap the envelope of leaves
until all that’s left
squirming in my hands
is an electric eel.
The positive head, the negative tail,
the rows of batteries under the skin,
the small, almost blind eyes.
The day turns murky again,
I’m wading through the bottom of my life
when my father’s letter arrives. And keeps on arriving.
The charged fibres of paper
against my shaking fingers,
the thin electroplates of ink.
The messenger drags me up to the surface
to gulp air then flicks its anal fin.
Never before has a letter been so heavy,
growing to two metres in my room,
the address, the phone number, then the numbness –
I know you must be surprised, it says,
but I will die soon and want to make contact.
In the last days, after all he said
and didn’t say, his iron tongue
resting in the open bell of his mouth,
the belfry of his face asleep,
I climbed the spiral steps of the tower –
up the steep steps of the bell cage, to the bourdon,
the great bumblebee, Emmanuel.
I stared at that bronze weight, the voice of Paris,
as if it was my father’s voice
and I had climbed up his spine,
all thirteen tons of copper and tin,
the clapper half a ton of exorcised iron.
I washed the outside with holy oil for the sick,
the inside with chrism. Let all badness
be banished when he rings. Let the powers of the air
tremble – the hail and lightning
that fell from his tongue on our last days together.
I made the sign of the cross. His note
was F sharp, the hum
deep enough to reverberate through the rest of my life.
I stood upright in him.
I placed myrrh inside his mouth, incense
smoking like a last cigarette.
I praised him. I assembled the priests.
I mourned his death.
Storm clouds dispersed. Thunderbolts scattered.
I tolled in Sabbaths. I raised
my father’s life to its hoists and rang him until I was deaf.
I proclaimed peace after bloodshed.
(First published in Poetry London and Fauverie)
Sleeping Black Jaguar
A solar eclipse – his fur
seems to veil light,
of black rosettes
a zoo of sub-atoms
I try to tame –
tritium, lepton, anti-proton.
as if smashed inside
a particle accelerator.
But it’s just Aramis sleeping,
twitching himself back
to the jungle, where he leaps
into the pool of a spiral
galaxy, to catch a fish.
Later, the keeper tells me
Aramis has had surgery
where his hank of beef
was lodged. But
what vet could take
a scalpel to this
What hand could shave
that pelt, to probe
of dark matter, untwist
together again, only
to return him to a cage?