‘Mal’ by Anita Pati


Them dogs won’t touch us three.
On Pendle Hill, no wind can whip us,
no brack of clouds from Chorley pall us.

Look. Dogs here are bogbounce happy,
kiddies snuffing balls and whatnot near Malkin,
families tripping from the corrugated towns.

They skirl around me, my own dog Whistler:
springer spaniels, border collies,
Sunday walkers flush-cheeked fed.

Proud marchers in their slimy wellies,
clodding soft black puddings underfoot.
We’re all white sons, Joe, my white son.

But they’re checking out my army kecks,
peering at the tail prickling stiff
and scared between Whistler’s legs –

a chastise stick pointing at me, malefick, like
it’s my fault I smack them. But both muck around.
I’ll bat painted witches when they shrink from my hands.

I’ll rag Joe’s mum till her mess washes off in Bowland drizzle.
These valleys, the shutdown towns: Nelson, Bacup,
their streetlights slag us slant like toothless whores.

Those dark moors wither when we’re near,
their split mills fallen now warp foreign
blackamoors in Burnley, Blackburn, Padiham.

I’ll flick them all: cotton grass under my thumb,
their spirits sporing across the Pennines
floating to a halt at my dog’s mangy jaws.
(first published in Poetry London , Summer 2014)
Anita Pati lives and works in London. She has been a Jerwood/Arvon mentee and won the Wasafiri Prize for Poetry in 2013. Her poems have appeared in various magazines and anthologies and she has been selected for the 2015 Aldeburgh Eight Advanced Seminar.