‘Shaggy Dog Story’ John Freeman

When I sit in Phil and Julia’s kitchen

Shrimp arrives, quietly padding around.

Julia always says the same two things:

she does like men. She’s a terrible flirt.

Now she adds: she’s very old. Shrimp pushes

her nose towards my flies gently, just once,

and then looks soulfully into my face,

and I gaze back, relaxing into the depth

of her brown eyes, their utter gentleness.

I rest both hands on her back through the long,

curly black wool of her coat. It reminds me

of a rug in my grandmother’s guest room

which I slept in once when I was very small.

Julia has given me her own soft chair,

the most comfortable chair in the whole world.

She, like me, is tired, and I ought to protest.

I don’t. From the other end of the table

Phil is telling me about a neighbour

who lived in the village before we came,


anecdotes that seem about to finish

but never do, opening into others.

There is no reason they should ever end.

I go on stroking Shrimp, resting my hands

on her warmth, which goes on resting under them.

I lean back in Julia’s chair, waiting

for the coffee she has made me to cool,

and sip it slowly, making the moment last.


John Freeman is a prize-winning poet and critic whose work has appeared in magazines and anthologies over several decades. His most recent books are What Possessed Me (Worple Press), and Strata Smith and the Anthropocene (Knives Forks and Spoons Press), both published in 2016. Earlier collections include A Suite for Summer (Worple), White Wings: New and Selected Prose Poems (Contraband Books), Landscape with Portraits (Redbeck Press) and The Light Is Of Love, I Think: New and Selected Poems (Stride Editions). Stride also published a collection of essays, The Less Received: Neglected Modern Poets. What Possessed Me won the Roland Mathias Poetry Award as part of the Wales Book of the Year Awards in November 2017. 

See the forthcoming ninth issue of The Lonely Crowd for a series of new poems by John Freeman.

© John Freeman, 2018. Photo of Shrimp © Julia Pearson, 2018. Header photo © Jo Mazelis, 2018.