The Ghost Dogs of Hyde

The Ghost Dogs of Hyde
have a nose for all things.

You can smell their breath
on the panting night air,

detect the rub of spectral fur
against your hand in the dark,

the slobber of long tongues
at the back of your knee.

Their eyes come in two colours:
black and blacker;

their heads in two sizes:
big and bigger

but soft as fog
they turn on nothing

but a sixpence,
take the corner at a lurch,

search for one another
by the wheelie bins

amongst the flung and forgotten,
the left and the lost.

The Ghost Dogs of Hyde
are pattering down Market Street,

smelling of wet rugs
in the bus shelters.

They harmonise with the traffic’s growl,
visit their local haunts,

cock an ear for an inaudible whistle,
a leg for another swift wet.

Numinous, they stand guard
over nothing in particular,

spook the sinking moon with a howl,
track their pale paw prints

from dusk’s grey puddles
to dawn’s grey streets.

The Ghost Dogs of Hyde
come blinking red and amber at daybreak,

cross against the lights in rush hour,
slide beneath chassis, unharmed.

They are a white spectre of light
in the blue vapour of fumes,

the bark under the bonnet,
the unidentified rattle in the boot.

They are the mist on the windscreen
that the blade won’t shift,

the snagged cuff on the handbrake,
the footwell’s dark stain.

They are crouched imaginings
in the dazzled mind’s eye,

the fleeting speck seen
then secreted in the dark cornea.

Now they are straining at the leash.
Now they are coming to heel.

And here in the mad dog midday sun
The Ghost Dogs of Hyde,

blue as wolf’s bane,
are moulting like trees in Autumn,

remembering every trick they were taught
except how to play dead.

       John Lindley

The Unmistakable Shapes of Frogs

In death they are themselves
more than any roadkill known.

These flat stars patterning the path,
these smudged wafers in unfinished hop,

these dull-coloured cut-outs, steamrollered dead
are, for all their dark anchorings,

rhinestones in a copper bracelet,
markers on uncharted seas,

paper-light sprites waiting to be flipped and freed
by a wind that can’t blow them fat

but can cartwheel these matt-black acrobats
to living, leaping life again.

                 John Lindley

Out back – 1961

Night-time I have them guard the narrow strip
beyond the window, rifles at the ready;
wake unsurprised to find that some still stand up,
untouched by breeze or touched by sense of duty.

Beyond the plastic soldiers on my sill
I see the shed where the mad dog crept, was killed,
not clean and quick as a mockingbird by
Atticus, but subtly by Authority.

Walk out: the smell of creosote and calm,
the stone cold morning flags becoming warm
underfoot, the taste of forbidden fruit –
the berries I was warned never to eat.

Out here, a foundry of sun on wrought iron chairs,
indistinct territories, vague borders,
a garden overstuffed by a clear –
eyed woman who loved flowers more than order.

Through French windows Dad’s cornet silvers the air.
I hear his tongue-tip flutter in the mouth-
piece, hear the Capstan brown of his smoker’s breath
between practice notes before Crimond stirs.

          John Lindley

Nine Lives of the Cat

and though Buddha
offers us more than that
theirs are the lives to crave:
their milk teeth cut
nine times over
nine times over
their kitten beginnings,
their curtain climbs
and easy rhymes;
nine lifetimes
of sparrow and shrew
hooked through their barbed
or basking days;
nine lifetimes
of backyard fights, padding nights,
of shadow hugging
and making,
of curling, winding and arching;
nine spans
of primping and preening.
Theirs, in a swoon of catnip,
the one true trip repeated,
theirs the full complement
of symphonies completed,
theirs, in their fur, their finery,
far more
than a thousand and one nights
of perfect binary,
theirs the believable magic,
the bucking of logic,
the nine times table
fully laid and set
for the purr and the spit,
the godly silhouette.
Envy these cats,
these acrobats, feet landing
to eight finales,
envy their hearths and their alleys
for they are the blessed,
the dressed-to-the-nines
gods without equals,
theirs the full told tale,
theirs the eight great sequels.

John Lindley


3 Responses to Poems

  1. mfuller810 says:

    I like to thing that you think of me a little bit with the ‘Unmistakable Shapes of Frogs’ poem, John.
    Dare I say I think your work has evolved, I would say matured but rather developed into a different style that I hope you like to see as a development!
    I certainly do!

    With Love and Best Wishes!

    – Mike.

  2. angela says:

    Just to say how much I enjoyed your poem ‘The Ghost Dogs of Hyde’ – my brother’s guide dog, Murdoch, has cancer and this conjures up the ghostly image that, sadly, will soon be his.
    It would be lovely to hear a recording of you reading it. If there is one anywhere, please could you let me know and I will buy it.

    • John Lindley says:

      Thank you, Angela. I’m so glad that you liked it. Very difficult, I know, when a pet goes.

      I’m afraid that there’s no recording of this poem around. Should you find yourself in my part of the world at anytime for one of my readings, please come forward and I’ll be happy to read it.

      Best wishes, John

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