Except for the cat

February 10, 2022

The cancer riddled Staffie, the muzzle white where it was brindle once, the Great Dane who clocked up only three years (for we breed dogs too big for their strained hearts to cope) the smelly terrier who outlived them all, sitting with the bald budgie Chomp on his head (something that would never have been allowed when the dog was alive), the coin-sized islands of terrapin, the scurry of guinea pigs, the cat that adopted you even though you don’t like cats, the many goldfish that floated to the tops of tanks, all come to greet you as you travel over to the other side. They bite and scratch and peck, and the ballooned goldfish push inside your throat, and you feel the choking although you are dead, and you realise that the animals did not enjoy their lives being stunted, to fit into your notion of pet like a blistered foot caught in a too small shoe.  Except for the cat, who never gave a shit.

PS Cottier

A fun piece of prose (poetry) in a vaguely horrific way. As an editor, I’m amazed by how many poems contain cats. Here’s my contribution.


Yes, we’ve heard their sad repetitions,
the ‘pieces of eight’, the rote ‘Pretty boys’,
dropped from tired beaks like peanut shells;
birds bored far beyond the thinning bone.
Compulsive as a handwasher who never
satisfies herself against germy armies
(save her hands are gloved in blood,
and cleansed into gauntlets of agony)
the caged bird will repeat this or that,
sigh, then hear that weird word clever,
thrown at his misery like a charity coin,
a beggar at our table of meaning.

But to see them treed, hanging upside-down,
greeting wet wind like a blown umbrella,
yellow winking at sun like a wicked punch-line,
raucous joy a cascade of brassy cunning sax;
this is the true sound of this bossy bright thing.
Why quibble about what they know, or don’t?
A screech floats to ground like a metal bird,
cut with tin-shears by a half-blind drunk,
so gratingly loud that ears are near-shorn.
Cockatoos mar the sky with jagged freedom,
as far from a nightingale’s sweet treacle
as a sudden mouthful of shattered glass.

PS Cottier


An old poem this, but there are so many cockatoos in Canberra at the moment that I thought I would post it again.  I think of dinosaurs every time I hear one screech.  Whether that is unkind to dinosaurs is something we can’t know.

Tuesday Poem: Two dogs

December 6, 2016

Two dogs

Young dog cups warmth
into her belly —
lots more where that came from

Old dog limps towards the fire
dreams, remembering bones.
We know of the bones to be.

PS Cottier

This poem first appeared at the Project 365 + 1 blog for which I wrote a poem a day in June.  And yes, I have an old dog and a very vigorous middle aged dog.  People always whinge about how quickly their children grow up, but a fourteen year old dog is not an adolescent!

Now I’m off to attempt to write something, and to paint my nails a vivid sparkly green. Christmas demands it.


Highly cool doings

December 17, 2015

award writers centre

At the ACT Writers Centre Christmas Party earlier tonight, The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry edited by Tim Jones and myself, was highly commended in the Poetry category of the Publishing Awards. The winner was John Stokes, whose collection Fire in the Afternoon is quietly brilliant. Congratulations John!

Shortly after that photo was taken, I felt I had to get home and rest. I have had a strange and emotionally intense week, as one of my dogs (the idiotic Staffie) managed to eat bones without actually chewing, necessitating urgent vet action. $1000 later, she is nearly better. Our credit card is also exhausted.

I want to write a serious article about the morality of pet ownership some time, somewhere. But that time is definitely not tonight, as I sup and sip and pat the dog who has yet to learn that bones must be chewed, as she is not actually a crocodile, despite the ludicrous strength of her jaws.  She will never be offered another bone though!

Close up of the certificate, in case one image is not enough. The judges were Michele Seminara and Tim Metcalf:

UPDATE:  This is a link to the official announcements and the judges’ reports in all categories.

Exporting pain

June 22, 2011

I wrote this poem about three years ago, and it seems like a good time to post it here.  There is a push in Australia to ban live exports of sheep and cattle to countries where Australia has no real control over the conditions in which they are slaughtered (i.e. everywhere else but here). This is truly a horrible industry; not just because of the methods of slaughter often being unregulated but because of the long confinement that any trip from Australia necessarily involves.  Here is a link to one of the sites pushing to have the trade banned.

It was quite predictable that there would be an outburst of stories featuring ‘honest Aussie farmers’ whose living is being threatened by ‘animal activists’.  It’s unfortunate if anyone is really hurt financially, but it’s simply unacceptable that we are raising animals that are then being being tortured to death once exported. Kill the animals here, under proper religious supervision where necessary, and don’t turn a conveniently blind eye to the suffering of sentient creatures.  I am a vegetarian, but there is no neutrality on this issue. Many meat-eaters have also been appalled to learn of the treatment of cattle in some foreign slaughter-houses, and the response to recently released video of conditions in some Indonesian abattoirs has reached far beyond the usual groups of animal rights supporters.

Any method of killing animals causes suffering, but this must be minimised, if people insist on eating them. The test for whether an industry is humane is ‘how would people feel if it was thousands of dogs being exported and killed like this?’ Imagine filling a container vessel with dogs and shipping them to, say, China to face a slow and painful death.  What’s the difference with sheep and cattle?  Oh, yes, that’s right.  They’re not ‘pets’.  Just animals. Delightfully logical.  Enough rant, here’s the poem.

Global farms

Stock cubes

are sent to sea, flavoursome squares

of mutton flesh and bone, seasoning,

woolly sardines.


Between pasture and knife

the blue stretches, and the yellow,

as rivers soak downwards,

contained in time.


No truck of guilt to turn from,

met on sudden road. Squalor

bleats over dollar’s equator,

safely unseen.

P.S. Cottier