Maggie Sawkins

Charcot’s Pet

Before my voice disappeared
like a rabbit up a sleeve
I wanted to be a singer
in the Folies Bergère.


The doctor is a kind man
he keeps me warm,
he feeds me seed cake
and Assam tea.


             But sometimes he makes me crawl.
             Pick up the crumbs
             my little goose.


At night I lie beside him
more silent than a blade of grass.
I allow his cold fingertips
to circle my heart.


Tomorrow, he says,
I must rehearse for the show
in the auditorium of the Saltpêtrière.
The doctors will love you.


He has made me a hat
of peacock feathers.
He has taught me to bark.


When he stares into my eyes
he can make me do anything


             But he can’t make me sing.

Maggie Sawkins
“Charcot’s Pet” first appeared in the anthology Mouth Ogres: A Tongues and Strings Presentation, ed. Hugh Dunkerley and Dave Swann (Krebs and Snopes, UK, 2001).