Essays on Dog Walking, I & II

 

Essay on Dog Walking (I)

 
 

In the woodland above us a man with his three
In I don’t know the breed
They’re big and so is their bark
scary for a baby &
babies don’t come up here babut
ours does

We avoid making eye
contact
while she clings closer for reassurance

We could justgs not come (like everybody else
who does not come
with their baby)

but if you saw the baby running & frolicking in the forest
and learning to play hide and seek behind the trees
and touching mushrooms and tapping the barks with her stickd wsounding them
If you saw her smile and heard her laugh and knew that wood was her
element…

I wish we could unknow this space
not care about itunkstay home in our flat
then everything might be easier

Think about these three big dogs
and their roaming and how they own the hills and the woodland

But I knoweiryou know
alreadynothey don’t expect to see
us in this area
noin not round here

We’re not walking with the same codesherare we
I’m sure you realise that Ihe don’t come here
walking swiftly in the hills with water boots whistling calling shouting

but perhaps we might comels ucouldn’t we comels uto these woods
to find something that can only be found here?

 
 

The Learned Pig

 
 

Essay on Dog Walking (II)

 
 

One dog runs at me
I think fierce
I think big

I thinkn stone
can survive an attack
caso I turn into stone

I must not be attacked
outside my
own home

by dogs
caI do not know

Another one comes at me
cafrom the opposite direction
and the jaw of uncertainty
cawidens

It’s OK
The man from yesterday
I fanned his dog away
from the baby’s pram
His partner emergeslo through branches
hands leashedneup slope
stumbling
Professional dog walkers
This is where they come to park the van

I walk a few metres
In the corner of my eyekea cloud
cadog rushing again

This time the dog is sicked
on another man
inside my body
another man
starts running
cabefore
I open soundless mouth

It isn’t just fear for my skin
It isn’t juit’s terror
It isn’t janger
struggling with each other
and neither can win n so

caI tell you n I say
to keep your
cadogs away from me!

‘They won’t hurt you’ n she says
taken aback by my panic
Afterwards I will wonder about this
caWere the dogs that threatening
caDid I need to be so afraid

I walk toward the bus stop
caAll morning I’ve been thinking
caabout Brathwaite’s Short History of Dis
where Cerberus is a Jamaican dog trainer
who tortures his dog so much
it whimpers in terror

In a reversal of Dante it’s the man
that barksalbecoming beast
while the dog cowers

There are things in our cells
hidden from view but
working the thatness of our bodies

His action is not just cruelty
Torturing the dogaltraining it
to be a bad rhatid dog is
his attempt to exorcise
a terror

The dog on the plantation
in the field
in the bushes
through the woodsalbarking
caripping
flesh
this mauling
of the Black body
the violence that made
White life possible

The pampering
the caressing
the spoiling
the doting
the fussing
caover the dog
reminds him
his ancestors
were property
caless than these animals

There are things in our cells
hidden from view but
working the thatness of our bodies

Like in me
cathe dog barking up a tree
cathe dog barking at my heels
like the dog
cais more than
the dog

 
 

These two poems are from Thinking with Trees, the brilliant debut collection from Jason Allen-Paisant, lecturer in Caribbean Poetry & Decolonial Thought in the School of English at the University of Leeds. Thinking with Trees is published by Carcanet Press.

Readers can purchase Thinking with Trees by Jason Allen-Paisant direct from Carcanet.

 

Cover image: Alice Franzon

 
 

This is part of ROOT MAPPING, a section of The Learned Pig devoted to exploring which maps might help us live with a clear sense of where we are. ROOT MAPPING is conceived and edited by Melanie Viets.

 
 

The Learned Pig

 
 

Jason Allen-Paisant

Jason Allen-Paisant is from a village called Coffee Grove in Manchester, Jamaica. At present, he's a lecturer in Caribbean Poetry & Decolonial Thought in the School of English at the University of Leeds, where he's also the Director of the Institute for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies. He serves on the editorial board of Callaloo: Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters. He holds a doctorate in Medieval and Modern Languages from the University of Oxford. He speaks seven languages. He is passionate about the outdoors and particularly about hiking and swimming. He lives in Leeds with his partner and two year-old daughter.