The chicken, squawked.
Discharged orange, yellow-blood-red soul-full feathers
Cloud high, as the Moirai called her home.
Framed through the rear window, like some tourist board idyll,
Peasant farmers, all brown cloth caps and humble bent-backs
Scrape up the bird, broken body protesting,
Put it in a waiting black pot.
I was shocked, not at the road-kill, but at the cavalier approach to this casual death and how we kept on driving. The taxi driver gave a shrug of his shoulders, and a ‘What can I do?’ gesture. I thought, as I settled into my seat-belt-less back seat journey to Khakheti, how chance had played her hand in my being here. When I scribbled the bare bones of the poem Road-Kill into my note-book, I realised that, much like the farmers by the side of the road had been waiting for an opportunity to cook a chicken, he too had been waiting for an opportunity to take without remorse, what he thought he was entitled to. When he started to pursue me, I was so heady with his power and his passion for Georgia that I was blind to the waiting black pot he had boiling in the background.
The night before this trip to Khakehti, we had walked through the uneven streets of the Old Town and I had felt as if many eyes were on me. It could have been my hair I suppose. It’s vibrant, curly, red and untameable or, it could be that there was some vague recognition by fellow pedestrians of me from the TV appearances I had given over the years. Either way it was unsettling. I had texted my ‘god-father’ earlier in the day hoping for a conversation. If there was going to be any kind of contact with any of them then it was better if I took the initiative. I had been greeted with a wall of silence. Not surprising, but I felt disappointed and it only added to my belief that, like the chicken, I had once served a purpose, my usefulness had ended and I was, indeed, now worthless.
Coming back from Khaketi, where we had been well and truly supra-napped*, the very same taxi driver knocked the back leg of a puppy that had wandered onto the road. This time I was devastated. I made him stop the car. I got out and marched back to where the dog had dragged itself into a ditch by the side of the road. I scooped her up and cradled her. I pleaded with the old farmer leaning, bemused at all the fuss, on his stick, to let me take her home. I called her Murah and she was going to come back to the UK with me.
Eight weeks old.
Ticks colonise your ears,
Paws, nose and multiply in the heat
From my breast
As I hold you.
Your heart slows and
From warning fear filled pain howling
You stretch, yawn, sleep.
I wrap you in my scarf.
My body shaking sobs and fevered tears
Mingle with your hot relieved wee as it trickles
Down my arm, stains my skirt.
Eight minutes after being
Knocked senseless, your beaten, torn, discarded form
Not quite broken,
Had found sanctuary.
The taxi driver joked that the dog was lucky and if that if this was what it took to get a visa into the UK he would consider throwing himself under the wheels of a car too.
The mercy dash to a British run dog shelter in Tbilisi meant that Murah survived her ordeal. Half German Shepherd half Huskie, she was seen by the vet the next morning, cleaned up and soon adopted by a German couple living in Tbilisi. I had already adopted a blonde Labrador cross from Georgia earlier that year and once I realised my house was physically not big enough for the size Murah was going to grow into, I paid for her vets bills and her upkeep until a forever home was found. Thankfully, it did not take too long. I see her now and again, thanks to the joy of social media and recognise, in her photographs, a happy, kind and beautiful dog who is adored and who adores in return.
# Supra-napped is a phrase I have fashioned to explain what it is like to be faced with mountains and mountains of food at a Georgian supra-feast having hoped that, having attended many supra’s before, I would not have to spend three-quarters of my time in Georgia eating and drinking rather than visiting and learning. During my trip I was only supra-napped twice which was great and meant I did not need to start wearing a bigger pair of trousers.