Lately everything I do or say feels like fan fiction written
by someone who neither understands nor particularly likes me:
A story which begins on the beach with a man running after his dog.
His dog has run away and in the distance he can see
his dog terrorising a fisherman and his son. His dog is fat.
His dog’s tendency is to eat everything. His dog pulls pounds of butter
down from the table and licks them into nothingness.
The man tried to use a shock collar, but it didn’t stop
his dog from eating everything. He just ate everything
whimpering in abject pain, dzzd, dzzd, dzzd. The dog
is called Henry. The man is also called Henry.
As he runs towards the fisherman and his son he can see
Henry, the dog, has set upon their bait box, their lunchboxes.
The man shouts the dog’s and his own name,
‘Henry! Henry! I will fucking kill you, Henry!’
until he realises the fisherman and his son are staring,
not at the dog, but at him, and with horror because,
as they will later explain, the fisherman’s son
is also called Henry and We thought you was shouting at him.
All this is taking place in a snowdome on the shelf
of a six year old boy who is called Henry. And Henry,
the boy, watches the scene unfold for another four seconds
before he picks up the snowdome and shakes it like a cocktail,
sending Henry the man, and Henry the dog, and Henry the son
into a whirlind of glitter, stones, sand, saltwater, philosophically
incoherent the fisherman’s line whipping around and around
Then his mother opens his bedroom door and tries
to tell him something, but it sounds like cassette hiss.
It’s depicted in the Byzantine style: the stilless is otherwolrdly
but the suggestion of movement is constant, and the icon
depicting the scene (one arm across the diptych) hangs
on the wall of a hermitage. The hermit, an old man
named Henry with a beard that has grown into the moss,
sits cross-legged on the floor in front of it and he tries
to meditate on the image and he prays that it would stop
distending and keep still and that he would be granted
some understanding, some sense of what he might
ask for them, of them, ask for them, but he can only hear
important that you… are you even… you could not watch for…
And the hermitage itself is a piece in a boardgame
and a teenage boy has just found the perfect place to deploy
it for three victory points, his third consecutive win.
As it clicks into place Henry, my interrogator, removes
the burlap sack from my head, tears the strip of masking
tape from my mouth and tells me he has been lugging
his heart around like a newscaster – like an anchor, I correct him –
Yes, like a newscaster, he says and he says,
and I quote, I need someone to tell me what I should do.
You don’t get that, Henry, I tell him. Nobody gets someone
to tell them what they should do. And he puts the tape back on.
Everything plant-delicate. I’m scared to force your arms through your sleeves. It’s like trying to put a little t-shirt on a crow. That’s what it feels like. It feels like I’ve captured a crow and for some reason I’m trying to show that crow unconditional love. Only it keeps pecking me, flapping its wings and flying around the room and into walls, completely terrified, and I’m like, come on, crow, don’t worry, I’m your father and I love you. Come and perch on my shoulder. And the crow just flies around the ceiling like a fan stuck on double speed – CAAAAAWWWWW! – stopping only when it reaches total exhaustion. And then I’m like, I love you. I love you, crow. I put the crow to my neck and I sit on a metallic grey exercise ball, the volume right down and subtitles on because love is so boring. I hum everything my dad used to play on the piano – stuff I didn’t know I remembered. Crow, I whisper, bouncing ludicrously on the ball, I whisper what I will whisper five years later, crouched by a drunk man weeping on Hungerford Bridge, it’s going to get better, it’s going to get better and everything is going to be okay.
Luke Kennard is the author of five volumes of poetry and three pamphlets. His latest are Cain (Penned in the Margins, 2016) and Truffle Hound (Verve Press, 2018).