Elegy: For Isis

I wrote this poem some time ago, when I was first married and working to complete my doctoral dissertation. Isis was a lovely cat who, along with my wife, endured the throes of my dissertation. I wrote this elegy on her passing. I had published it on an earlier version of my website, and thought it worth migrating to my new site.

Elegy: For Isis

When I married my wife,
you had already lived with her
ten years. That is how we remained:
The old, orange and white cat,
and the new man in the house.

My wife loves cats; I like them
well enough. But when you growled
and clawed her favored Persian,
a pampered, aging bimbo,
I liked you quite a lot.
You and I, we formed
an understanding:
I became your companion
of second choice, and you
my favorite distraction.

You would sleep in a basket
on my desk while I worked.
When you awoke and walked
across the keyboard onto
my lap, I would put you in
the basket, and you would walk
onto my lap. I’d put you
in your basket with food,
You would eat, and walk
across the keyboard onto
my lap. I’d put you back
into your basket, turn you
on your back, and rub
your belly. Somewhere I had heard
that hypnotizes alligators.
Sometimes, it worked on you.

But sometimes, you just sat
at the edge of the desk, and stared,
with blue eyes so different from mine.
I’d cup my hands around
your head, and move them down
your sides, smoothing your fur.
I’d stare into your eyes.
You stared back, steadily,
your strange mind like liquid,
your Buddha nature,
your defining contradiction:
a tranquil mind enclosing
a wild and dangerous heart.

When you became sick, I watched
you grow thin and weak;
the veterinarian thought
your pancreas had failed.
She gave us pills and iron tonic,
and showed us how to “pill a cat.”
A process much like sticking
a post-it note on a moving fan.

But it did no good: you fell
from eight pounds to four,
and the iron tonic you spit
back at us hardened on your fur
like rubber cement. Finally,
we stopped the pills and tonics.

But I took you outside almost
every day. You were
an indoor cat, not used
to the yard, but, since you were
too weak to go far, I watched
and let you wander.

You walked to the edge of the grass,
where weeds and brush lined the property,
and stared into the darkness.
The small birds complained.
You froze and crouched,
Ancestral memories stirring
your predatory heart.
Then you grew tired, walked
away and found a spot
to sleep, alone.

No matter how weak you became,
no matter how much of the day
you hid in the cave beneath
the blue, stuffed chair,
our walks stirred your spirit.
And when I looked into
your blue eyes, I found you there
like always, bright and calm.

Eventually, you grew weaker.
On our trips to the yard, you stopped
exploring and simply rested.
When you could no longer walk
without weaving or falling, we decided,
in our human wisdom, that the pain
had grown too great, for even
your wild heart.

I asked the veterinarian,
if we could take you outside,
into the yard behind her office.
There, you seemed renewed,
more alert than you had been
in days, exploring each dark
and hidden place. I followed
you around the yard, until she
and her assistant found us.
I calmed you, talking
and smoothing your fur until
you rested softly on the grass.

You were my companion,
and you were my teacher.
From you, I learned the essential
paradoxes of animal existence:
That selfishness engenders love,
that action bears the axioms
of wisdom, that pain summons grace,
and that a wild heart
feeds the tranquil mind of understanding.

About William Stubblefield

I hope you enjoyed this posting. Thank you for reading!
This entry was posted in Personal Memoir, Poetry and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.