The Cat Died Yesterday

May 2006

The cat who purred each morning
     on the blue arm of my reading chair,
A small calico who lived here,
     with these humans,
For whom this house and yard were home,
     died yesterday.

She didn’t show for breakfast that morning,
     like clockwork routinely at the glass door,
Conspicuous by her absence,
     I found her curled in the seat of the lawn tractor in the garage,
One of her favorite places,
     not eating, still available for petting,
Still ready to purr.

The cat, aged 13, had just stopped eating,
     simply no longer interested in the
Bowl of milk she once liked so much,
     (although what I left on the step of the lawn tractor disappeared that day)
A little water now and then was all.

The cat was not in pain, and did not appear ill,
     for three or four days she simply did not eat,
Losing weight, very thin, still beautiful in black and orange and white,
     on the day before her death she lay alert,
On the small green hill by the house,
     in the spring grass, ears attentive, periwinkle in bloom,
Enjoying, as she always did,
     simply being aware, out of doors – simply aware.

As the afternoon waned, she moved to her hidden spot
     beneath the bridal wreath bush, in full bloom,
And full of white spring scent;
     we kept a bowl of water near to where she lay,
And stroked her head, now and then, to a weak purr.

That night I knew the cat would move indoors,
     through her tiny door into the basement,
Out of the cool and damp of the backyard dark,
     and in the morning checked downstairs,
To find her on the basement floor,
     too weak to climb the stairs to where we kept
The food and water.

She lapped a little water from the bowl I brought,
     no interest in the milk,
With a weak purr to my stroking her head,
     ever so gently,
As I moved her from the cement floor to a mat,
     for she could not stand or walk.

I carried mat and cat upstairs,
     to one of the spots she liked,
Under the table in the spare room;
     the spot was warm, and her people could attend,
A proper hospice for a pet.

She lay there on her side,
     very weak, uninterested in milk or water,
Emitting an occasional groan,
     breathing gently without pain.
And sometime in the afternoon,
     her breathing stopped
The awareness and the purring stopped forever.

We buried her in the evening,
     in the backyard that she loved,
With a head-post recording Name and Dates,
     beside the head-posts of the dog and other cats,
Who have known our house and yard as home.

The universe had produced this wondrous
     awareness in black and orange and white,
A miracle named Honeysuckle by the humans,
     for 13 years or so, herself unnamed,
Yesterday she returned to its mysterious bosom
     in the cool earth.

We stood hushed at her grave-side, last evening,
     under the darkening Mulberry tree,
Before the immensity of life and death,
     shaken by the absolute mystery,
That encompasses us all.

We wondered at the miracle of life,
     and felt, young and old, the drear chill of our own mortality,
While our little cat had simply stopped eating –
     for she had never really left,
The One that took her back.

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