Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Carolyn DeCarlo’s ‘The Opposite of Animal’

The Opposite of Animal

It takes a fine level of awareness,
pulling one’s weight from the house
to the car, from the car to the supermarket
then back inside the car, down the street
to the hair salon, back into the car.
Down the motorway to the Kmart,
the car dealership, the brunch on the waterfront,
across town back to the movie theatre,
back home to dinner,
heating soup and toast on the stove,
climbing the stairs one by one,
being pushed aside by pets
passing one by one on the stairs,
dragging wet noses across
the chairs, the duvet cover,
inserting themselves into windows,
under carpets, inside closets,
and springing, always springing out
in varying levels of attack,
grins on their faces for the joy of it,
the sheer high of overturning the master,
if only to shift the balance for a second.

It takes awareness to centre one’s life
around the less fortunate,
those with fur and claws and wet mouths
whose daily glory revolves around the master.
Measuring food into small bowls like party snacks,
placing them at acceptable heights
around the kitchen and the bedroom,
vacuuming up crystals and muddy paw prints,
sweeping fur across the linoleum
and out the door, with the dog, ready for walkies.
In a moment of trauma, the pet will hide
behind the figure of the master.

A knock at the door or a dropped teacup
sends the whole house scurrying
back, folding in, listening in anticipation
of the master’s reaction. 
The reality of being called the master
implies an innate sense of false equality –
a lack of awareness of power bordering on
ignorance – an alternative so denigrating
one might forget one’s own competence
and begin to seek the pet for protection.

Carolyn DeCarlo

Carolyn DeCarlo is a queer writer living in Aro Valley, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, with seven other mammals. She runs Food Court Books and We Are Babies Press with her partner Jackson Nieuwland. Her chapbook-length collection ‘Winter Swimmers’ was featured in AUP New Poets 5. She also co-wrote the chapbook BOUND: an ode to falling in love (Compound Press 2014).

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