“go down any road long enough and you’ll come to a slaughterhouse, but keep going and you’ll reach the sea”

by sophie

(from “If Thou Dislik’st What Thou First Light’st On,” by Dean Young, who got the title from Robert Herrick)

 I do not think I really have anything to say about poetry other than remarking that it is a wandering little drift of unidentified sound, and trying to say more reminds me of following the sound of a thrush into the woods on a summer’s eve — if you persist in following the thrush it will only recede deeper and deeper into the woods; you will never actually see the thrush (the hermit thrush is especially shy), but I suppose listening is a kind of knowledge, or as close as one can come. ‘Fret not after knowledge, I have none,’ is what the thrush says. Perhaps we can use our knowledge to preserve a bit of space where his lack of knowledge can survive.  — Mary Ruefle, MADNESS, RACK AND HONEY:COLLECTED LECTURES

have been reading Mark Doty’s blog, from which I stole the above quote. Hasn’t been updated in awhile. But that doesn’t matter to me at all.

I gave my cat a bath last night. Before she was mine, she was Dorothy’s and before that she belonged to Dorothy’s father, whose wife didn’t like that Bridget clawed the furniture. The story goes that 18 (19?) years ago, Bridget walked out of an alley on the North Side, right up to Dorothy’s old collie, Trent, and made her long whining meow, and since she wasn’t scared of the dog, they took her in. Last night she looked so pitiful after the bath. She’s the only cat I’ve ever known who does not struggle in the water — never has. I don’t know why she never struggled before, but now perhaps it is because she is so old. When she gets wet, I’m reminded of how small she is. The severity of her thinness. Last time we went to the vet she was 5 pounds. You gained a quarter pound ! the vet said to her. I imagined the size of a hamburger, that she’d gained that much weight. Somehow it was hardly visible.

My friend Nick doesn’t really like animals. Oh Fluffy, It’s nothing personal, he tells Bridget, when she jumps up on the couch and he crunches his body away from her, pushes her with his elbow. His wife owns two cats and a dog, all of them ailing, all of them reportedly little beings that they pour money into in order to keep them alive. He jokes all the time about letting them die, last week mimed putting Bridget in a bag and throwing her off a cliff. He’s the only person I’ve met who doesn’t really like animals. It seems to say something essential about his character, but I’m not sure what. Maybe it seems to him that keeping animals is wrong, that they should just be allowed to wander in and out and stay or leave as they wish.

My sister was in love with a cat for a year or two – Rocco – a giant cat, seemingly something between a main coon and a cougar. He was hugely possessive of her, sleeping always on her chest or beside her like a lover with an arm flung across her body all night. She took dozens and dozens of pictures of him. Every Facebook post was about him. But there was a dangerous wildness to him — sometimes he would leap on her while she slept, scratching up her face to an awful degree, rabbit-kicking her as cats do their prey — the instinctual move made to rip a small body. Then there were his days-long disappearances into the city,  the wounds he’d return with, the vet fees,  the fines she had to pay the Animal Rescue League when they picked him up. Finally Anna decided it was too much, and, with much heartache, brought Rocco to her mother’s farm in Arkansas. And he was happy there, finally free to wander and be how wild he was. Recently he was attacked by a bobcat, and after a long night at the vet, died of his wounds. According to the vet, the bobcat had grabbed Rocco’s head in its mouth, shook him, then let go. He was almost gone when my sister’s mother found him, and just didn’t pull through.  But wild to wild. How much more natural could his death have been? And I know he went down fighting. And to find his match in a cat, in his own, instead of by a car or a dog in the city… but my sister is, was, devastated. And why shouldn’t she be. Why do we think grief for an animal we lived with everyday and loved should be less?

My parents had to put down their dog this past year, the dog I grew up with. It had gotten to the point where he was entirely deaf, where he’d had numerous seizures, where they had to carry him up and down the stairs. His copper-red muzzle had turned white. Old man. My father used to sing to him. When they finally let their cat die a few years ago, I know they’d gone a year of giving her injections every night, carrying her around like a little ghost. I’ve started to give Bridget medicine twice a day — her thyroid condition hypes up her metabolism in such a way that makes her awfully skinny, always hungry. She has to lower herself slowly to lay down, has to take extra time to prepare a jump onto the couch, and sometimes, doesn’t make it. And then I lift her up.