Editor’s note from Ian O’Brien: I am so proud to be able to share these poems with Janus readers. The thing that I love about Jonny’s work is that it strikes that balance of crafting and accessibility, blending the cryptic and the conversational, and I think that makes for the best poetry. In these two poems, we get the beauty in the humdrum, the special in the ordinary. He takes two everyday moments and floods them with feeling.
The Kindest Way
There was nothing to be done about Carrot. Fin rot you shrugged, eyes on the kitchen clock, the inevitability of it all set square on my nine-year-old shoulders, the stupid name I’d picked sealing his doom, like I’d stuck the rot in him from the start. His bowl caught the light that first day home, a bulging astronaut’s helmet housing its solo sailor, that little flicker of orange, ticker-taping its way through space. Would I have said I ‘loved’ him then? Perhaps. But a goldfish is not a puppy: the twitch and flow of his tail; his o-o-ing at flakes; sucking my friends’ fingers on request - all that dulled pretty quick. Sodding fish. One more chore on the list. Time stagnated. The helmet started to darken into umber, red streaks across orange flesh, a cloak of bacteria gnawing him raw. It was the kindest way, you said. Wisdom of the local. Certainty of a shaman. Pop him in a freezer bag and take him to the garage. Your head shook when I offered you the knotted plastic like a prize, the bag weighty under my fist, so much heavier than during that ride home from the fair. I stretched open the shuddering chest-freezer, laid him among frosty packets of anonymous meat, that black, onion seed eye, boring into mine as I gently brought down the lid.
You found me sat on the school wall, an outline waiting to be coloured in. A flick of your tongue and my face ran molten, ears flaming up like stupid, pink chops. I remember feeling my heart begin, slowly shrugging off its skin, a red pepper beating under oven heat, slowly gaining some give.
Jonny Rodgers is a writer of poetry and fiction from the Northwest of England. His publications include Envoi, Stand, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Morning Star, The Cadaverine, Prole, Best of Manchester Poets: Volume 2 and 3, and Cake. Find him on Twitter at: @JonnyDRodgers.