Thursday, January 24, 2013



Myra puddled among beige cats.
Beige herself, she disappears
except for her bat-ears looming
above the crowd. The other cats
welcome Myra’s alien features:

elongated head, spindle legs,
whippet tail. She’s popular,
and fecund, once, giving birth
to more than twenty litters
of Oriental Shorthair kittens.

After eight years, too exhausted
to continue, she faced extinction;
but the shelter queen snatched her
from her indifferent owner’s grasp.
She’s the only sample of her breed

among a hundred and fifty cats—
yet unadoptable, unwilling
to live in a house lacking cats
enough to shield her from the world.
Five years huddled here among

cats glad to have her. Sometimes
she withdraws to the under-parts
of a tattered upholstered chair
and snores her old lady snore
alone in the dark. More often

we find her cuddled with her friends,
all complementing her color.
We brush and feed her as if she
alone occupied this shelter;
and the sixty other cats

in this room gaze upon her
with a certain satisfaction,
as if her exotic framework,
more like a monkey’s than a cat’s,
flattered by comparison.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Loki Adopted

Loki Adopted

Loki of white and orange bulk
bullies through the Pumpkin Corridor,
scattering Queenie, Gemini,

Little Ben, Angel, and others.
Loki wants people to admire him,
but like the child of “Animula”

he’s both precocious and wild.
Tensile and poised, his repose
seems a mode of attack. Needy

as only large male cats can be,
he claims all available space.
His friends are patient. Queenie,

fearless and half his size, bumps him
from a food dish. Gemini
huddles against him and purrs.

Angel sneers down from the perch
she holds against the gravest assault.
Little Ben wants only to play.

On a brimming autumn Saturday
Loki gets lucky. Someone needs him,
only him. A cat carrier yawns

and he’s gone forever, his new home
out of state, out of mind. The space
he occupied hums as cats compete

to fill it. Little Ben, owl-eyed
tux cat, and Queenie, gray tiger,
cuddle into place so the gap

in the Pumpkin Gang doesn’t show.
They’ll remember Loki, of course,
but the flux of cats engages them,

and he’ll recede into the distance
in a patter of faded pawprints,
fragile as a dusting of snow.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hamilton and Bianca

Hamilton and Bianca

Hamilton and Bianca, siblings,
look fresh as bread from the bakery.
White-dominant calico
Bianca, reddish-splotched white guy
Hamilton arrive attached

as if still in the womb. Spaying
almost undoes Bianca. Careless,
sloppy work allotted shelter cats
leaves her so loosely half-stitched
she almost spills her innards

and has to see a second vet
for repair. Separated, caged,
the siblings droop like daffodils.
Hamilton tries to befriend
his neighbor, but pines for his sister.

She curls into a seashell-shape
and refuses, when petted, to purr.
The life of the big room grinds on.
Bianca heals, but she’s sorry
she ever became a cat. A couple

employed by MIT arrive,
embrace the siblings, depart
with two cat carriers brimming.
A week later a chronicle,
with photos: brother and sister

playing, eating, trailing after
their doting human companions.
The last photo: two cats curled
together so tightly they merge.
The caption: “All tuckered out.”

Friday, January 18, 2013

Ranger's Fate

Ranger’s Fate

Ranger unhappy in his cage.
Little Ben thrusts a paw
inside, comforting the prisoner.
What has Ranger done? No one
can say; but when Gretchen’s voice
ascends the stairs, Ranger cocks
his ears and growls. Little Ben
reassures him. I crack the door
and insert a dose of canned food.
Ranger scoops it up and grins
his pale orange neutered grin.

Later I clear the area,
unlock the cage and exhort
Ranger to roam and chase a ball.
Rumbling from corner to corner,
batting the ball and my dangling paw,
Ranger plays at being a cat.
As a kitten rescued from a wall
he seemed a normal smudge of orange.
Why is he now on Prozac? What grim
officious person did he bite?
Gretchen? Mary? No one recalls,
no one knows why we drug him.

Liberated, playful, he’s all cat,
but one of the shelter managers
wants to kill him: unadoptable
and lacking a quality life.
That isn’t going to happen.
Little Ben joins in the play
and the two rush around together,
their brisk little faces brimming
with the vital force Thoreau
treasured in everything alive.




Amanda in her many stripes
curls and exposes her belly,
eager for pets. Her sister,
a shy calico, the beauty
of the family, hunkers
at a water dish, wary of me.
The corridor is too narrow,
but it’s home to twenty cats.

Angel lived here, and Gemini.
Angel sneered at everyone.
Gemini, calico angora,
climbed my trouser leg
and slept in the crook of my arm
as I dished out food to the others.
When someone adopted her
my inner organs clenched. Angel,

also taken, left a fistula
only slightly smaller. Months
have passed, and Amanda still poses
for the attention she needs.
Vacuuming, dumping litter,
washing and bleaching dishes,
restocking food, towels, water
take time, leaving few moments

for stroking and playing with friends.
Amanda wants to come home with me,
wants her sister to tag along.
When I turn off the lights only
the window at the far end glows
with twilight. Amanda’s eyes flick
silver a moment, then close
as she coils into herself, grieving.