Wise Poets – Barbara Crooker – Penny

She wasn’t a good cat. Wouldn’t let us pick her up
or cuddle on the bed. Sometimes she’d permit

petting, but only if she was in the mood, and on
her own terms. If she was perched on a chair, perhaps

you might approach. But now, at fifteen, she’s stopped
eating and drinking, sleeps all day. Instead

of wrestling the white Christmas Teddy, taking him down
to the bottom of the stairs, she’s huddled next to him

on the landing. Will even let me sit with her
and stroke her fur. I think she’ll slip from us

peacefully, but she’s starting to stagger, can’t
use the litter box, and her cries are terrible

to hear. So I take her to the vet–the place she hates
most in this world–because what else is there to do?

There’ll be no return trip. I hold her in my arms,
a fur-wrapped bag of bones. She’s gone beyond fear.

It’s not like I’m saying good-bye to a beloved friend–
she’s been peeing outside the box for months,

and “Aloof” is her middle name. But she’s purring
under my hand, as the vet slips the needle in, murmurs

appropriate clichés. I’m not sure what kind of loss this is–
how can you love what doesn’t love you back?–but for the rest

of the day, I wander through the empty rooms, looking
for a trace of orange, glimpse of a whisker. For she

was beautiful, and she knew it. No wonder the Egyptians
thought cats were gods. And now, we’re left, not bereft,

exactly, but stranded, washed up on some strange shore,
wandering, in the country of the merely ordinary.