by Michael Woods
A taxidermist describes how he stuffs animals and the way in which he expects his sexual partner to behave.
This is a dramatic monologue written in the voice of a taxidermist. This builds up to a violent crescendo of disturbing male domination of a woman. He spends his life stuffing dead animals and he likes his partner to be as passive as an animal being stuffed. 'Stuffed' assumes a clear sexual connotation in the final stanza of the poem. It has been prepared for in the progressively more suggestive words associated with the various animals the man stuffs.
The poem's formal organisation reflects the control the taxidermist likes to exercise. It is tightly structured in four stanzas, each comprising a tercet. The unifying principle of sound is a single rhyme running through the whole poem rather like the stitches used by the man to suture dead animals in shape. Each line is also end-stopped. Single word statements like 'Wow', 'Spiv', 'Wild', 'Mad', 'Fierce', 'Tame' and 'Mute' capture the terse voice of the persona. References to the woman in the poem are made either as a possession of the man or as an object of his desire. He controls her entirely and sees her as a 'living doll'. This allusion to the title of the Cliff Richard song 'Living Doll' reminds the reader that even an apparently innocuous popular song can have a demeaning effect in the wrong circumstances. Here it connotes a brainless, powerless woman entirely at the mercy of a sadist. The words 'jerk', 'hold', 'spread', 'screw', 'Splayed' and 'pierce' all have clear sexual connotations and further reflect this man's need to dominate.
All references to the man are framed in terms of the self-obsessed 'I' of the persona. There is a disengaged sense of self as far as the poet is concerned and it is easy to forget that a woman is ventriloquising the monologue.