Animal Highlights of 2013

January 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

moucheblog

Mouchette decides she will spend as much time as possible on top of me: on my front by day, on my back by night. I feel like a mama possum. Both cats begin to show a rudimentary understanding of English. The family weave tightens.

Visiting my beautiful niece Delilah and her fiance Nick for dinner, we hear their story of how they ended up with ten gerbils. They bought two females. One turned up pregnant. But the pregnancy was so early that it didn’t occur to them at first that she was pregnant when they got her—they assumed they were mistaken about the sex of the unpregnant one, so they separated them and bought a male to keep the supposed father company. “I thought he had really weird genitals for a male,” said Nick of the unjustly accused gerbil, and indeed the real male then promptly impregnated her. Both gerbils had their litter and that was already a lot of gerbils. A couple of weeks later, Delilah and Nick went away for Thanksgiving. They returned–surprise–to a third litter. Apparently gerbils can get pregnant when they are already pregnant, so girl gerbil no. 2 had popped out a 2nd litter, which suffered from having to share a womb with the first, half-done litter: two of the three babies were tail-impaired. Nature is careless and in a hurry.

Charles and I had evil desires to take one or two home for the cats, but changed our minds after the little guys came out to play on the dinner table. “Nick, please take the gerbil off the cookies!” said Delilah, as I watched the dark, stub-tailed rodent steady his tiny pink paws on a biscotti. I can’t remember that one’s name. I remember Jasper, the color of ash, with his long, succulent tail (lucky gerbil to have a tail!): I wanted to tuck him under my chin, hide him in my bra.

Nick told the story of the death of Archimedes, his sturdy hamster. “That fucker lived 5 ½ years! They’re only supposed to live about three years. He did NOT want to die. At the end, he had this huge tumor on his chest and he was trying to chew it off. Really! It was all bloody…I got some sedative from Davis and put him to sleep. I held him in my hand, put the needle in, he gave a little sigh, and stopped.”

Archimedes is in the freezer. “Nick is waiting to give him a Viking burial,” said Delilah.

“On Chincoteague”–where they will marry this summer–“I’m going to put him in a shoebox, set it on fire and launch it out to sea.”

On the way to the A train, walking down crowded Saturday night Nostrand Avenue, we passed a TV in a shop window showing a preacher in a golf shirt. “I’m ASKING you not to wear garments that EXPOSE your body’s BEAUTY that makes dogs bark and HOWL.”

Lastly, from the Sunday Times, my name in print

A Book Said Dream and I Do

There were feathers and the light that passed through feathers.

There were birds that made the feathers and the sun that made the light.

The feathers of the birds made the air soft, softer

than the quiet in a cocoon waiting for wings,
There were feathers and the light that passed through feathers.

There were birds that made the feathers and the sun that made the light.

The feathers of the birds made the air soft, softer

than the quiet in a cocoon waiting for wings,

stiller than the stare of a hooded falcon.

But no falcons in this green made by the passage of parents.

No, not parents, parrots flying through slow sleep

casting green rays to light the long dream.

If skin, dew would have drenched it, but dust

hung in space like the stoppage of

time itself, which, after dancing with parrots,

had said, Thank you. I’ll rest now.

It’s not too late to say the parrot light was thick

enough to part with a hand, and the feathers softening

the path, fallen after so much touching of cheeks,

were red, hibiscus red split by veins of flight

now at the end of flying.

Despite the halt of time, the feathers trusted red

and believed indolence would fill the long dream,

until the book shut and time began again to hurt.

Barbara Ras

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