Friday Poem – ‘Dogwoman’ by Deryn Rees-Jones

This week’s Friday Poem is the opening page of the sequence ‘Dogwoman’ by Deryn Rees-Jones. ‘Dogwoman’ draws on the work of Portuguese artist Paula Rego, who passed away earlier this week. It first appeared in Deryn’s collection Burying the Wren, and later in What It’s Like to Be Alive: Selected Poems.

This cover shows a drawing by the artist Paula Rego of three children leaping in the air. The text reads: Deryn Rees-Jones What It's Like To Be Alive Selected Poems

What It’s Like to Be Alive: Selected Poems brings together poems from five of Deryn Rees-Jones’s early collections: The Memory Tray, Signs Round a Dead Body, Quiver, Burying the Wren, and And You, Helen. We see the arc of development in her writing as she visits and revisits the concerns that are the mainstay of her writing: memory, love, desire, and heartbreak in all its manifestations. The cover features a drawing by Paula Rego.

after Paula Rego
No one can love this horror, no one can want it.
I’m crouched between my own thighs,
with my dog heart and my dog soul. For now I’m a woman
brought up by dogs, bitch in the muck and the blood and the dirt.
For once, now, I’ve got no words, and look –
I’m trampling my bed, I’m baying at the moon.
And no one can hear me, with my skirts pulled up,
head back as my eyes roll. Look. I’m swallowing sorrow.
No one can hear me in spite of the howls.
I am lying on my back, my legs outsplayed.
That would be my dog-look, now, I’m giving you,
my half-cock, something askance and going to hell,
take me/leave me, inbreath, outbreath.
Trembling, I’m all upturned. Heart-hit, flesh-bound,
saying love love in a ring of devotion.
Here’s my dogbelly with its small pink teats.
I’m waiting for the pressure
of your well-shaped hand.
Now dog’s the divine. Strange thought. Dancing on hind legs,
head to one side, and the face of her master. Dog sudden, well-met.
Dog sitting, dog listening, dog running with big joy
and ghost dogs on the fields now with her. Dog blur,
hellhound, dog shaking, hare-bound; dog in the wind, sky-bound.
(Once, attendant in my blue dress, I hadn’t the words to call you back.)
Dog in the snow, dog in the sea. Dog glorious, glories herself.
Dog racing with gleam and thunder. Best friend. Neither
fish nor fowl. Just for this moment hound bliss.

What It’s Like to Be Alive is available on the Seren website: £12.99

Burying the Wren is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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