two poems of mine now appear in B O D Y. they are important poems to me, essential experiences i wrestle with – loss, desire; what is the place for anger, for regret, for honesty. Twelve Years Later is the only poem I’ve ever been able to write about abortion that feels right. there are so many pitfalls in writing about difficult topics – self-pity is the deepest, i think, then sentimentality. with a topic like abortion especially, because it is politicized, there is a societal expectation. the woman must feel regret. the woman must feel sorrow, penitence. the woman must be haunted. and yes, i was, am, haunted, but there are different layers to this inhabitance. this ghosting has taught me about different forms of love. and in essence, the other poem is about love too, and expectation – what a woman is supposed to feel and do, how relationships are supposed to work. when we are supposed to feel anger and why. there are many theoretical situations to which people respond to with certainty – i would or i would never or of course or i couldn’t. but we only really know ourselves as far as our experiences take us. any response outside of experience is projection, is who we believe we are because of — what? prescriptions from society, family, religion, the experiences of friends. how it is in the movies. i have lived enough to know that i am capable of terrible violence and terrific love and senseless animal behavior and great patience and that this does not make me different than what anyone might discover.
last week my very old cat began to die in earnest. we are always dying, yes, a little each day moving along our thread of time. one never knows when a flowerpot will fall on your head, when the brakes will simply fail, when biology will turn. and this is what has happened to my little cat. it is her heart condition, which suddenly makes her breathing quickened and difficult, which causes her to choose more often now to breathe rather than to eat. i was terrified last week, spent hours in grief with her on the kitchen floor, watching her breathe, wondering each time i came home if she would be gone. the vet gave me the sad vet face — there is nothing more to do for her — and encouraged me gently to call a woman who could come to my house, to put her down, when the time came. tomorrow , i thought. then thought, over the weekend. then the next day, the next. but my little cat is bossy. the story goes that when she was a tiny kitten, barely six weeks old, she walked out of an alley up to my friend’s large collie and meowed with her trademark scratchy meow. unafraid. since then, she has always been clear about what she wants, when she wants to be lifted, or petted, or fed. during the nights on the kitchen floor i watched her eyes and spoke to her and asked her to tell me when she was ready to go. but life… everything hungers for it. everything fights towards life. and now, a week since i was first afraid for her life, my little cat is still meowing for food, still meowing when she wants to be petted. i am unspeakably grateful that i did not act in haste and have her put down in those first days. i respect her life, her will to live. for now, i am just watching her breathe. listening for when she tells me, it’s time.
these are the days of miracles and wonders.