for Karl

Out in the shed with the rat poison and weed killer
the gas mask was sulking.
Its rubbery smell brought home from the trenches
was like someone’s bad breath.

With its pigsnout it hung like a trophy
on the back of the door.
It had a scowl, a smirk, a look of evil
that could have been my own invention,

a trick of the mind when I was sent out
to bring in coal that was hard to gather
in the dark, in the panic to escape the sagging jaws,
the mask made of a grimace.