Bat the Mousie

September 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Life is Elsewhere

I’ve been through some rough emotional waters the last week, and as a result have been avoiding people and spending more time with the cats. They’re beautiful. That helps, to see such russet, snowy leonine sleekness adorn my bed, such big golden eyes stare into mine—for minutes at a time—and the blunt pink nose poke in for a face bump. It makes my whole body loosen to stroke my black velvet bag of kitten parts (even though she’s not a kitten anymore), her once skinny body now plump with wealth as velvet bags are supposed to be—

—and in the middle of this affectionate description Fitzroy attacks Mouchette, who’s sleeping in a rumpled lump on my desk, and sends all the papers and the girl cat flying. He’s worked up because I played Bat the Mousie with him, but apparently not long enough. Or he just needs the real thing, a live smaller being to jump on and chase. She’s under the bed now and he’s lying in wait: he’s too big to fit under there comfortably. He has to squeeze in and out, and he knows how ridiculous he looks doing it. I’m always afraid he’ll get stuck there when I’m not home.

Now he playing with his mouse-on-a-string by himself, all leaps and growls, big white paws swinging wide as he twists to catch the string that’s wrapped around his own body. I love the sounds he makes. I love how eager he is to see me in the morning, running in at the first rustle of my body; when I come back in the afternoon; or whenever I’ve been working or reading then stop and speak to him. I love the way his body hitches up like an accordion when he wants me to rub his flanks.

Mouchette when she was slimmer

A man in the park whom I’ve talked to before, a jive cool guy, late 30’s, very cute, asked me today—as I walked away from him—what that instrument was that the man was playing and I said “an accordion.”

“You looked like the kind of person who knows everything,” he called after me and I wanted to stop and let him flirt me right into a new life where I would abide in the park with no work or rent, strolling slowly under leafy trees while being plied with amusing, mock-courtly compliments— the time forever a mild, golden September afternoon.

Men have been flirting with me a lot lately, though I feel like I’ve shut the sex shop for good. I’m not looking but somehow I have a sign on me: recently dumped, well kept up, references available. Flirting feels scary now. It reminds me of that period 11 years ago when I embarked on my extramarital adventures, which were many and strange, the strangest being the one that lasted. Damage was done; it’s hard to say exactly how much. Sometimes I think my heart is stronger. I certainly know a lot more about myself and other people, more about love, hate, jealousy, devotion, forgiveness, loneliness, craziness, good sex, bad sex, group sex….

I guess what’s lost is the playfulness, that happy puppy teenage five year old getting all dressed up for her Internet adventures. When I look in the mirror now, I see sorrow stamped on my features. That’s why people are always asking me what’s wrong, even when nothing in particular is. The story’s been written—everyone can see it—I don’t have to say a word.

So why are more men flirting with me? They must know something I don’t.

This Was Once a Love Poem

This was once a love poem,
before its haunches thickened, its breath grew short,
before it found itself sitting,
perplexed and a little embarrassed,
on the fender of a parked car,
while many people passed by without turning their heads.

It remembers itself dressing as if for a great engagement.
It remembers choosing these shoes,
this scarf or tie.

Once, it drank beer for breakfast,
drifted its feet
in a river side by side with the feet of another.

Once it pretended shyness, then grew truly shy,
dropping its head so the hair would fall forward,
so the eyes would not be seen.

IT spoke with passion of history, of art.
It was lovely then, this poem.
Under its chin, no fold of skin softened.
Behind the knees, no pad of yellow fat.
What it knew in the morning it still believed at nightfall.
An unconjured confidence lifted its eyebrows, its cheeks.

The longing has not diminished.
Still it understands. It is time to consider a cat,
the cultivation of African violets or flowering cactus.

Yes, it decides:
Many miniature cacti, in blue and red painted pots.
When it finds itself disquieted
by the pure and unfamiliar silence of its new life,
it will touch them—one, then another—
with a single finger outstretched like a tiny flame.

Jane Hirshfield


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