July 25, 2010 § 2 Comments
Animal roundup: scientists have proven that a dog is more likely to steal food if you’re not looking. They’ve invented a robot that can eat anything and excrete the waste. It uses a litter box. The idea is to make it self-sufficient. So far, they’re working on feeding it flies and sewage. “Don’t worry, it won’t eat you,” the scientist said gaily. Hey, it’s early days yet. I’d rather trust a dog.
But what I want is a Bengal cat. Not that I want another cat. There’s no room in my apartment or heart, and the other two would be madly jealous. But I want a Bengal the way I used to want Nicole Miller dresses. Pretty, pretty. Also I’d like to able to afford a $1000 cat without blinking. Would I love it more for its touch of the wild? I know: you’re thinking fur coats, fox stoles, conspicuous consumption, blah blah. My mother had a fox stole. It made me think adulthood involved enchanting animals to corpse-stillness like Snow White in her glass coffin. The savage magic of adults when I was five! I look at my mother now and think: where’s the House Goddess; the sneaky witch with her sewing machine, pins glinting on the floor; the Queen of Night with my father wrapped around her little finger (no wonder he was twisted). She’s still beautiful but she’s a human being. What happened?
But I was talking about cats. About the cat I’ll get when I’m my mother’s age, Fitzroy and Mouchette are dead, and so are all the Siberian, Indonesian and Indian tigers. I’ll still live in this apartment and I’ll never go outside. My robot will do the shopping (and clean his own litter box). The mad and toxic world will only enter here, through a computer that will be then be everywhere, in the air, on the wing, cleaning your clothes as you wear them, sewing shut your tired eyes.
Believe me, dogs know you’re distracted. They slink around like shadows, lift the roast beef so gently and swallow it before you’ve found that special Israeli sea salt. This means they have a theory of mind. I can tell you what it is: If you know your heart’s desire, if you keep your will focused, if you wait with faith and never falter, the human will look away.
Your Dog Dies
it gets run over by a van.
you find it at the side of the road
and bury it.
you feel bad about it.
you feel bad personally,
but you feel bad for your daughter
because it was her pet,
and she loved it so.
she used to croon to it
and let it sleep in her bed.
you write a poem about it.
you call it a poem for your daughter,
about the dog getting run over by a van
and how you looked after it,
took it out into the woods
and buried it deep, deep,
and that poem turns out so good
you’re almost glad the little dog
was run over, or else you’d never
have written that good poem.
then you sit down to write
a poem about writing a poem
about the death of that dog,
but while you’re writing you
hear a woman scream
your name, your first name,
and your heart stops.
after a minute, you continue writing.
she screams again.
you wonder how long this can go on.