- Death of a Cat, and: Visitation, and: Haunted House
poetry, dying, coping, grief, development
poetry, isolation, wildlife, death
poetry, ghosts, memory, slavery, reclamation
Death of a Cat
Little beast on the metal table, she tookthe needle into her forepaw
and didn't flinch. The medicinal deathfit itself inside her, ran the blue and red map,
burned up into her lungs and brainand heart, which slowed,
and she slept until there was no breath leftand her body emptied itself of air.
A bit of blood showed at the nose,and as her warmth left, her lungs and throat
rattled a little which was the soundof the earth taking back the quickness
it had lent her. Eleven years had passedinside her body, all of them as my companion,
having found her as a kitten shut upin a cage. These are the years during which
I have lost a great deal, while the cat watchedin her dumb way, unburdened by the need
to assign language to everything she sees.A man I loved left, and the household
we built together became a private realmpopulated by my singularity, the paper city
of my books, and by this catwho patrolled the thirty-two corners of the house. [End Page 95]
She occupied the place in my absence and my presence,eating and licking her paws, shedding her undercoat
as winter folded back into spring, and insects and stray bats returnedas fodder for her games of cruelty. She knew nothing
of my nephew and the noose he slipped around his neck,leaning forward while seated on the floor,
until the life was strangled from himand he was found among his store of guns, a long knife,
the tight black clothing that he wore. Outside, Portlandkept winding past, with its bicycles and beer, pretty bridges
spanning a river whose name I don't even know, a city imageof perpetual immaturity fixed like a young man
strained against a rope. Hope didn't live there,with him, in the clapboard house he shared,
and for some time it didn't live with me either.The cat didn't mind, winding behind the woodstove
in the fall, when the first cold night sent me to splitsome kindling and warm the old stones of the hearth.
She didn't care about anything other than herselfand in this there was perfection—to eat and sleep,
to find amusement in the hunt, to seek out the slantof sunlight where it warmed the clean pine floors,
and to meet me when I came home,in a way that resembled love, how she came running— [End Page 96]
hearing my key turn the tumblers of the lock,even though I had trained her to link
the sound of my arrival with the foodI would spill into her bowl.
There was bliss in this, to be met by a bodyat the door, to be joined at night
in a bed, her head within my reach,inside which no words tumbled, no reasoning
wrecked the morning, no memorybound the missing to my single body
left lying nightly in the bed.In the morning I rise up again to go out
into the world, forgetting whatever imagesflickered through the dim chambers
of house or brain, bed and book and hearth,the smoke rising up from the stove embers
which, in the morning chill,and with my black tools
I stir back into warming life. [End Page 97]
My mother is alive and funny in the house above the marsh.
I think she does not miss my father much as he is still alive, though elsewhere.
Now that the men and dogs are gone, the team of mules separated and sold off
to Iowa and Missouri, now that we put down the last Labrador—
(a job that also came to me)— a curly-coated giant stinking in the kitchen
who loved a tennis ball arcing through the air more than his keeper, more than ducks or food,
more than rolling in some putrefaction— Now that the yard is quiet
the guns slumbering and...