Memories deceive me with their falsehoods, flashing
shadow shapes, shifting with a move of the fingers,
dog into man, shift, man into a frightened mouse,
squeaking, like the ungreased iron-rimmed wheels
on a farm-cart with its load of hay and snapping dogs.
Watch out for the horse’s sideways kick, for the sting
of the farmer’s cruel whip, for the dogs’ white teeth.
What magic lantern now slips its subtle slides
across night’s screen? Desperate I lap at salt-licks
of false hope that increase my thirst and drive me
deeper into thick, black, tumultuous clouds.
My grandfather in the trenches, drenched in a gas cloud,
groping, choking, invalided home, returning, so brave,
to face that gas grave again and again, only to cough up
the last of his tortured lungs thirty years later. I remember
him bent over the table, struggling for breath, balancing
his hesitant life against an immanent death. Today it is
so different. A pandemic storm lays waste to memories
that dog my mind. At night a black dog hounds me, sends
my head spinning, makes me chase my own tail, round
and round. It snaps at dreams, shadows, ghosts of family
members who drift, slowly fading, through my mind.
I try to track them through Ancestry, through Tarot Cards
and Tea Leaves but they are all lost in a Mad Hatter’s
illusion of a dormouse adrift in a teapot in an unkempt
nursery rhyme of a tail within a tale and hunter home
from Caer-Filthy hill, I return to find my house empty,
my deserted body devastated, my future a foretold mess.