I found under the tongue, when he opened wide,
a harvest of minuscule Thai red peppers
clustered either side of his pink frenulum,
twin fields of fiery stalagmites.
And as if that were not passing strange enough,
behind and above two shelves of tiny Lucite drawers
to my alarm one of which you chose to open
and examine closely in its moist mucosa casing
before gently replacing it, and without consequence
as to structure or disquiet on sleeping Micino’s part,
I suppose given our past history of how routinely
I would pry open his jaws to massage his gums,
then run my finger along his sharp, serried molars,
those 12 incisors, rub up and down both fangs
between forefinger and thumb, then for luck tap
the tips of both as I made to take leave of that warm portal
and carry my attentions elsewhere, first stroking his flanks,
then, discreetly, his belly, and tickling behind both his ears.

Micino, Micino, so bounteous the love that flowed between us,
and trust, I would in the end betray so cruelly …
But here he was again, spread lengthwise across the floor
at the foot of the backseat in our powder blue Chevy wagon
looking scrawny, grey, dusty, more mummified than living;
that is, until he blinked. BLINKED. Micino risen …
At which point I raised him to my lap:
– Micino, Micino, then you’re alive, I cried,
and lifted his eyes in the direction of mine, ever so weakly,
it seemed as if life itself was barely flickering inside him.
But as I began to stroke him he seemed to suddenly revive.
Where have you been, my darling boy, Micino?
For had I not left him long ago on the Bardo Plane,
his mortal flesh dissolving at the foot of the fan palm
in the shallow grave I dug for him there, the rhizomes
of the bamboos close by slowly, slowly pulling apart his bones?
Holland, I think, he offered wearily and with no certainty
as we unhurriedly made our way along the banks of the lordly Hudson.

Seminal Vestibule

I, too, found myself to be most at home there,
in this passageway between the street and … well,
let us say, the staircase and kingdom beyond
along with our Rottweiler pup Ondeen,
sprawled diagonally across the Afshar throw rug,
her belly rising and subsiding in wheezing, susurrant repose.
She might just as well have been a museum exhibit,
so nearly constant was her presence there
with me spread out on the little loveseat beside her,
stroking her ear between my fingers, teething on a stick of jerky
as was my custom in those days and sometimes even now
when circumstance and respite from society allow,
for it encourages, this chewing, deep memory to run off-leash,
sending me back once again to that antechamber
with its subaqueous lighting, yellow ochre walls and doggie smell,
the old-fashioned tilted glass apothecary jars,
three each atop the twin console tables, Mother,
poor thing, between loads of wash, baking and polishing,
forever fussing to keep them aligned just so,
filled, as they were always kept, with jelly beans and candied fruit slices,
red, green, blue, black and orange,
Poppa filled his pockets with, the fat fuck,
each time he wandered through between the one realm and t’other,
stepping over Ondeen, or not quite,
raising thus a grunt or high-pitched yelp of vivid pain.
How like a Kaiser Poppa could seem to be sometimes,
but gentle and loving, as well, pinching my cheek:
– Now, don’t be letting the world pass you by, sonny.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN


Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences