Sunday, March 1, 2015


Is this not a strange life to which I call you? The morning after death there's laundry to do, tiles to scrub, an absence to let be. Still each window frames his gaze. Yesterday he lurched to the lanai, wanting out. Bryant carried him to the flower pot that holds rain water. He set his left paw in it, put his head between dense leaves, drank. A last offer of chicken, refused. I tried to close his eyes after, but the muscles keep them open. His white whiskers lay on the blanket, his ears alert. Sound is not a stain to leave behind. Morning is quiet, except for birds and the rooster I startled. This is vigil to come after vigil's end. Vigilance is what we're called to, the presence that makes this present hurt. There is comfort in our clichés—the other side, the seeing again—and while I'll mark you down for them, today I drink them like water from Tortilla's pot.

--1 March 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015


Rest in peace, sweet cat.

Tor (1994-2015). He was a member of our family for the last ten of those years.


For all Eternity is at once in Him, both the empty durations before the World was made, and the full ones after. Between before and after is this last day. There's a round stain on my meditation cushion where the cat peed. It forms a perfect circle, a knot of black thread precisely at its center. A tuft of his orange fur shows at 9 o'clock, a wisp of dead grass just past noon. There is no calendar for poems, I write, only artifice. But this day will end when the vet comes with her needle. These will be your traces, body elements, the odd fruits of your dying. In Lawrence, an admirer preserved William Burroughs' turd and put it on display. Matter matters, but not in that way. Om mane padme hung.

For Tortilla, with love
--28 February 2015
 [Thank you to James McCorkle for telling me that Burroughs was himself a cat lover.]

Friday, February 27, 2015


Desire imports something absent: and a need of what is absent. The cat's eyes fill with mucus; what he sees he sees through film. Small children can't tell need from want, necessity from desire. The cat's desire is all necessity: his dish, the spot by the window when there's sun. Touch and taste were hands and lips; the class exercise turned to expressions of love. My son wears a bracelet with his girlfriend's name on it. I wear a ring on my left hand. Ruth held a long dry leaf, ran it along the railing like a prayer wheel. What we hold sacred is at hand. I wipe out my cat's eyes with a Kleenex; he turns away, orange cheeks stained brown. We consider the ethics of feeding, the stain of wiping the cat's anus. There is no prince of this prom; we are equal citizens in the end-of-life.

--27 February 2015

Monday, February 23, 2015


This is very strange that God should want. Merriam-Webster pronounces the word “strange” for me, so I won't be. It's stranger, non-native; if there is God, he cannot be, except in not being strange. Shift pronouns—he, she—to pull down infinity but a tad. “For Gad, for country, and for Yale,” his campaign sign read. I don't remember if he won, but why should it matter? Someone sang Alice Cooper in response to her talk, but I read “sign,” as if gesture could convey such sound. Silence is many things. Is cat on his blanket this Monday morning, eyes wet, still wanting water, food. He needs to know you'll let him go, the vet says; her animals respond to English and make their own mistakes. My son's eyes are dark with refusal, but this morning he scratched the cat's head before school. Nothing's simple, it's all lease-hold. Leases come due, and we let them go.

--23 February 2015

Sunday, February 22, 2015


It is very strange; want itself is a treasure. The cat still wants: water, food, a wobbly walk on the lanai. I don't want so much as I lack. “I can't eat for you,” I said, before he began again to eat. Lack precedes want, but want contains little except lack. Bryant caregives, taking reduction for a new essence, abiding with it. My mother on her deathbed was past want or lack; all she did was breathe until she did not. The cat on his blanket has more volition than that. It's his volition that hurts, the quiet bend of his front leg and the slow collapse of his back. The man who'd had a stroke walked beautifully. It was not his walk, but his want of walking that made it so, the odd circular motion of his one leg as it moved toward the floor, set itself down, began. Attention obliges us to love. I want his next step taken.

--22 February 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015


Socrates: “who would have thought there were so many things in the world which I do not want!” Our cat lurches a zigzag jig from maroon blanket to kitchen to carpet. Restlessness is a sign, I read. He propels himself toward the door, as if momentum were a kind of direction. It's raining, so he cannot find his sun spot. He peers out the louvered window beside our shoes. I do not want him to die. I do not want him to live. I do not want for not wanting.

--20 February 2015