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Fran Lock: a poem


"Is my heritage to me like a hyena's lair? Go assemble all the wild beasts, bring them to devour."

Jeremiah 12:09

Thus, circumstance compelled me to tell you, you know

jack-shit about hyenas, dear. This, for instance: hyena is

not an animal, but an edge; where grief has its house, her

whetted territories sing. The opposite of pleasure is not

pain. Hyena does not dig the dead from their graves, but

where bodies meet the sun half-way, she is the war's mute

treasurer; she has carried away our loss in moist parcels,

with an extremity of tenderness. Draw around a sleeping

dog with chalk. Turn away and count to ten. Hyena will rise.

Patroness of feral misgivings. Her several habitats are as

follows: Lebanon, Versailles, the Falls Road, Honour Oak

after a storm. That which you call her pelt, her overalls; that

which you call her mane, her crown. Tuppenny crones prefer

the sleek indifference of felines. Hyena is her own raving

spectrum, mascot of ruder perversions. It is a militant witch

indeed who rides the long night into Rorschach, nose buried

in her sweating neck. In the mid-nineteen-seventies radical

lesbian separatists hoisted her face like a flag over pool

halls and dive bars. In the late-nineteen-nineties her loping

form was sighted in a comet's spitting tail. It is said that if

you see a hyena in your dreams, you will die a violent death.

This is true. However, hyena is not harbinger, but prophet.

Some people simply will not be told. In Guadalupe her image

appeared within a Black Mission fig, and similar visions

have been reported in the South Hebron hills near Susiya.

To find the image of hyena in a piece of fruit is to be brought

not luck, but fortitude. Within the troublant ecologies of

loss, hyena is the undisputed Mater Lachrymarum, or Third

Mother. Her signature manouevre is the planchette, sharp-

silhouetted corsair crossing any bucking sea. The night

revolves around her, and didn't I tell you that all hyenas are

female? That is, all hyenas are pirates. Hyena, our funerary

renegade, is a poltergeist in a hair shirt. Where taxonomists

say the hyena is closer to the cat than the dog, it is our

stated position that hyena is closer to a Baby Grand piano,

to an Acme safe in free fall, to a typewriter thrown from

a hotel window. And, dearest, hyena is never extinct. To

become a hyena is to live without captains or champions, to

tarry packless in dangerous places: sectarian rec grounds,

hospital corridors. Hyenas love well, but not often. There's

a fine line between woo and woe, what she'd do to impress

you, a million pitchy costumes. Hyenas are prized for

the aphrodisiac qualities of their hindsight. Men have

been grinding their bones to powder for centuries. Poor

fools. Hyena's power is not in her marrow but in the near

miraculous knack of her cherishing. She has been known to

sit vigil for eight-hundred years. Hyenas have no proverbs

only poetry. That which you cruelly describe as howling is,

in point of fact, the end of a song you persist in mishearing.

Blatant wassail, karaoke. How sorrow is ground like a coarse

blue lens.

This poem is featured in Hyena! Jackal! Dog!, which was published by Pamenar Press last year. Dr Fran Lock is a some-time itinerant dog whisperer, the author of seven poetry collections and of numerous chapbooks, including Contains Mild Peril (Out-Spoken Press, 2019). She has recently completed her Ph.D. at Birkbeck College, University of London, titled, "Impossible Telling and the Epistolary Form: Contemporary Poetry, Mourning and Trauma". She is an Associate Editor at Culture Matters.


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