Cat Update

January 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

mouche.dresser

Mouchette is toughening up. We took her to the vet for a check-up and once in the carrier, she meowed in distress and complaint, but didn’t emit that otherworldly howl, with accompanying fear-stench, that once marked her dislocations.

In the office, on the steel table, she fought back, as she never has before. It used to be, by the time we got there, she’d be terrified into paralysis. But when the doctor insisted on looking in her mouth, she dug her claws into the woman’s arm—the gentlest, calmest vet I’ve ever been to—and I remembered the arrogant doctor at the last place who said she didn’t struggle with him because he knew how to handle her.

Mouchette struggles when she’s certain she hasn’t fallen into the hands of Nazi torturers, but is with those humans who won’t punish her for self-defense.

Her tongue mass hasn’t grown and she’s perfectly healthy. “Do they usually keep growing?” Charles asked.

“Sometimes they do. Sometimes they go away, and then come back. Sometimes they stay the same. They do whatever they want.” Oh, to be a benign mass on the back of Mouchette’s tongue, able to do whatever I want!

We brought her home and she hissed ferociously at Fitzroy, a good comeback to how he treated her when she returned from having her teeth out, then stalked restlessly around the bedroom: all that adrenaline, no place to go. “How’s her energy level?” the doctor had asked. Way too high. She races across the top of the bed and the bureau and around the room and jumps over me and is on the top of the bed again, and I know I’ve lost pills or glasses or pens again, that I’ll have to check under the furniture before going to sleep.

And then she sits on my chest, staring at me with her yellow eyes, her black/white nose like a graffiti tag, her fangs showing between her lips. The doctor had admired her fangs, as well as her whiskers and eyes and velvety fur. I didn’t say, “Don’t you think her chest is like angel feathers? What about her paws—aren’t they the most delicate and feminine you’ve ever seen? And the way her butt sticks up when you rub it—her slim haunches between my hands like a vase on a potter’s wheel…oh, I love that.”

I didn’t say any of this. It was Charles who solicited the doctor’s opinion on her beauty. Charles who feeds her five times a day (because she can only eat a little at a time and if you leave it out, Fitzroy will eat it) and stands over her watching like an anxious chef, like a chef auditioning for the President.

The President gave a speech today. I didn’t watch, but I read it.

“Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.”

Good luck with that, Barry. You can cherish all you want, you can confiscate and destroy every gun in the country, but our children will not always be safe from harm. The inevitability of harm is why children exist in the first place.

I do wish Mouchette could have kittens.

A lovely, strange poem

What the Angels Left

At first, the scissors seemed perfectly harmless.
They lay on the kitchen table in the blue light.

Then I began to notice them all over the house,
at night in the pantry, or filling up bowls in the cellar

where there should have been apples. They appeared under rugs,
lumpy places where one would usually settle before the fire,

or suddenly shining in the sink at the bottom of soupy water.
Once, I found a pair in the garden, stuck in turned dirt

among the new bulbs, and one night, under my pillow,
I felt something like a cool long tooth and pulled them out

to lie next to me in the dark. Soon after that I began
to collect them, filling boxes, old shopping bags,

every suitcase I owned. I grew slightly uncomfortable
when company came. What if someone noticed them

when looking for forks or replacing dried dishes? I longed
to throw them out, but how could I get rid of something

that felt oddly like grace? It occurred to me finally
that I was meant to use them, and I resisted a growing compulsion

to cut my hair, although in moments of great distraction,
I thought it was my eyes they wanted, or my soft belly

—exhausted, in winter, I laid them out on the lawn.
The snow fell quite as usual, without any apparent hesitation

or discomfort. In spring, as expected, they were gone.
In their place, a slight metallic smell, and the dear muddy earth.

–Marie Howe

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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

What I Want For Christmas

December 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

dominion

I made an apple-pear pie, tossing the fruit with brandy and sour cherry jam as well as a little brown sugar and spices. It was as good as it sounds, and Charles suggested I could make a living baking pies and selling them on the street, and I said I wish I had a big apartment so I could have a Christmas party, and he said he wanted to eat all the pie himself.

I’m trying to get Christmassy but this is not the year for it. Medical bills have taken all the money we don’t have and that’s just for the animals. I’m feeling just the slightest bit psychopathic, little flickers around the edges, a kind of psychopath-halo effect.

Charles thinks me an angel because I cook dinner most nights and bake pies. “It was more impressive when I was 17,” I tell him. “By now, culinary competence is the least you could expect.”

“Frankly, I don’t expect anything.” The renegade wife is either punished ever after or appreciated all the more. If it had been the first, I would have killed one of us by now. As it is, things are good.

Well, maybe not. I woke up very early yesterday morning to take Mouchette to the vet for dental work. My usual bedtime is 3:30 am, and when dragged from the depths of slumber at 7, I experienced, for 15 minutes or so, what it’s like to be not depressed. It’s nothing like the way I feel when I up the Zoloft dosage, which replaces pain with white noise and a vaguely post-mortem indifference. No, this was the old me: the inner landscape colorful, various, rich with ideas, spread out in all directions, cities, villages, forest…I used to live there. God, I miss it.

But I’m glad it still exists, even if I can’t get to it. My buried self. What a weird life.

Mouchette needed thirteen teeth removed—we were expecting two or three. Peridontal disease. The staggering bill was the least of it. The doctor discovered a mass on the very back of her tongue and biopsied it while she was under.

I can’t think about it now. I have to believe she’ll be okay. She’s long and slinky and beautiful, velvet and snow: black/white nose, fuzzy chin, white whiskers. Her eyes brim with feeling. She sleeps on my chest in the afternoon, heavy and radiant as a warming iron. My Mouchette, my Mousie, my girl.

If she’s okay, that’s all the Christmas we need.

Last week, at KGB, Mark Doty mentioned Alan Dugan: “Whom I don’t think people read enough anymore.” I couldn’t remember if I’d ever read him, so I looked him up. Here’s a poem.

Drunken Memories Of Anne Sexton

The first and last time I met
my ex-lover Anne Sexton was at
a protest poetry reading against
some anti-constitutional war in Asia
when some academic son of a bitch,
to test her reputation as a drunk,
gave her a beer glass full of wine
after our reading. She drank
it all down while staring me
full in the face and then said
“I don’t care what you think,
you know,” as if I was
her ex-what, husband, lover,
what? And just as I
was just about to say I
loved her, I was, what,
was, interrupted by my beautiful enemy
Galway Kinnell, who said to her
“Just as I was told, your eyes,
you have one blue, one green”
and there they were, the two
beautiful poets, staring at
each others’ beautiful eyes
as I drank the lees of her wine.

Alan Dugan

Dream Song

November 17, 2012 § 2 Comments

Can a person go insane from an earache and a few mad cats? What about LUST? I wish I had mouths all up and down my arms, so I could go out bare-armed like Paula Broadwell and have everyone run away in terror. Zombie Apocalypse it’s not, but enough for a Friday night. Though I couldn’t be any scarier than that ruffled dress Paula wore on Jon Stewart that made her look like Big Bird’s bridesmaid in mourning.

A friend said that in this era anyone having an affair, especially at that level, can’t use email or cell phones. But there are lots of ways they could have passed messages on the Internet, not even employing the fancy encryption/tech stuff. No, I won’t tell you. I may be involved with a CIA agent someday. I’d be the one asking about undetectable assassination methods, not what happened in fucking Bengazi.

Four people died! That’s what happened. John McCain should be serving soup to the even-more-elderly in an area nursing home, the sort of volunteer who never leaves and the staff say, after while, “We’re not really sure if he’s a patient here…but as long as we tape his mouth shut every morning, he’s fine.”

No comment on the gifts gaffe. I have Romnesia. I have a crush on Susan Rice, as well as my continuing crush on Chris Matthews. My husband is in love with his guitar. He doesn’t hear me when I speak. I don’t hear him when I’m reading. He’s an A plus husband, but we need to get out more. Sometimes, we’re too bored to eat.

I have stories I need to commit to paper, or its facsimile. Yet I hesitate. Writing my memoir, in the 1990s, I cried for two straight years. I’ve already put in my tears for this decade. I’m tired of feeling like a woman after a back-alley face-lift. I want some of those millions wasted on the election. “Will you give if you win the lottery?” asked the woman from the LGBT organization after I explained all my charity monies had gone to Sandy victims lately. “Absolutely,” I said. “Even if I win the $ 5,000 Better Homes and Gardens sweepstakes.”

I have a sparkling resume, for a writer. If you’re desperate, they’ll smell it on you, Lisa said. But I’m far from desperate. I didn’t end anyone and hack her body up and hide the pieces. I may talk too much. I apologized to my husband recently for my shitty mood and bad manners. He laughed darkly. “If you could get to me, you’d have been dead a long time ago…”

Murder is the lowest expression of imagination, although joking about it isn’t. Trolling for sweepstakes is the next lowest. The epistolary erotic novel is enjoying a renaissance. I want to laugh while I write.

Lola still attacks like a kamikaze fighter. Mouchette vanishes under the bed at the slightest excuse. Charles keeps me locked in the bedroom all day and night so Mouchette won’t be lonely, while he stays in the living room with Lola. Fitzroy goes back and forth as he pleases. He tests the water level in his bowl with his paw before drinking, contaminating it for everyone. The kitty litter is so close to my bed now, I can hear them peeing. It’s oddly intimate, like the sister who leaves the bathroom door open.

My new favorite poet

Dear Reader

You have forgotten it all.
You have forgotten your name,
where you lived, who you
loved, why.
I am simply
your nurse, terse and unlovely
I point to things
and remind you what they are:
chair, book, daughter, soup.

And when we are alone
I tell you what lies
in each direction: This way
is death, and this way, after
a longer walk, is death,
and that way is death but you
won’t see it
until it is right
in front of you.

Once after
your niece had been to visit you
and I said something about
how you must love her
or she must love you
or something useless like that,
you gripped my forearm
in your terrible swift hand
and said, she is
everything—you gave
me a shake—everything
to me.
And then you fell
back into the well. Deep
in the well of everything. And I
stand at the edge and call:
chair, book, daughter, soup.

–Rita Mae Reese

Catfights

October 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Lola

Now that I’ve bent your ear about climate change for a few posts, I’ll give you what you really want, dear readers: an update on the cats.

Lola is happy here now. She likes the clutter and the company. Her fur, which she used to chew off, is growing back, silky and silver-brown-black. Maybe she was allergic to Florida. Maybe she understands that in New York your dress matters more.

She goes where she pleases. She attacks Fitzroy and Mouchette a few times a day. This is not because she’s stressed; she likes to fight. Her eyes dance, joy sparks from her body. She’s like a kid on a Ferris wheel, and afterwards—if I’ve shooed her out of the bedroom because of Mouchette’s unearthly cries—she’ll look at us with a slight hunch to her shoulders acknowledging guilt, but within seconds relaxes and grooms herself meticulously, self-satisfaction evident in each line of her wiry body.

Fitzroy doesn’t mind her attacks. He just bats her away with a long, snowy paw, or looks at her as if she’s nuts (this is when she chooses to attack him in the kitty litter). If he’s feeling frisky, they’ll chase each other around for a while, the big-assed boy knocking over glasses (specs) and glasses (drink), spoons, books, jewelry, pill bottles, piles of unread mail, dental floss. They hang out together, not in that comfortable, let’s-sleep-all-the-time fur-pile that he used to make with Mouchette, but like teenagers hanging around the kitchen at night, wearing their latent rebellion on their whiskers.

Mouchette reacts to Lola’s attacks with far more distress, howling low in her throat to halt Lola’s progress into my room (the disputed territory), then retreating under the bed with banshee wails if Lola’s relentless in her advance over the threshold. If they actually connect—and I rarely see the moment when this happens—a flying ball of clawed fur will crash land just beyond my head (the headboard’s a cat highway), errant paws pricking my scalp and making me shout.

Even so, I don’t believe Mouchette’s position is undiluted I-hate-that-bitch. She perches on the edge of my dresser and peeks around the door for a half an hour at a time, watching Lola. We call it sentry duty but it’s also fascination. The feline females have been known to sleep a few feet from each other on my bed, or sit the same distance apart on the floor having a staring contest. Lola’s eyes are halfway between sage and emerald. Mouchette’s are the yellow-green of a pre-storm sea. You can tell they want to bond, or almost want to.

The real issue is that Lola thinks fighting is play and Mouchette doesn’t. My girl is nonviolent, except in moments of terror. She deals with Fitzroy’s attacks—made when he’s horny, angry at me and displacing it, or terminally bored—by ignoring him as long as possible, then getting rid of him efficiently. She seems to understand his motivations and not take it personally. I don’t think she understands Lola’s. Of course Fitzroy is easier to read. Lola comes out of nowhere like a kamikaze fighter and it’s very easy to mistake this as murderous intent. It may be, but I don’t think so. She’s too happy after a fight, even when she’s been routed. You know people like that. Lovable, perhaps, but a bitch to live with. Luckily for me, if not Mouchette, Lola’s not a human person.

But Mouchette does want a gal pal. And Lola’s like a socially awkward kid who craves friends but keeps losing them by behaving badly. Will the girls work it out? Will Charles and I work it out, smushed together like a peanut butter and pickle sandwich? Stay tuned.

Wild Gratitude

Tonight when I knelt down next to our cat, Zooey,
And put my fingers into her clean cat’s mouth,
And rubbed her swollen belly that will never know kittens,
And watched her wriggle onto her side, pawing the air,
And listened to her solemn little squeals of delight,
I was thinking about the poet, Christopher Smart,
Who wanted to kneel down and pray without ceasing
In everyone of the splintered London streets,

And was locked away in the madhouse at St. Luke’s
With his sad religious mania, and his wild gratitude,
And his grave prayers for the other lunatics,
And his great love for his speckled cat, Jeoffry.
All day today—August 13, 1983—I remembered how
Christopher Smart blessed this same day in August, 1759,
For its calm bravery and ordinary good conscience.

This was the day that he blessed the Postmaster General
“And all conveyancers of letters” for their warm humanity,
And the gardeners for their private benevolence
And intricate knowledge of the language of flowers,
And the milkmen for their universal human kindness.
This morning I understood that he loved to hear—
As I have heard—the soft clink of milk bottles
On the rickety stairs in the early morning,

And how terrible it must have seemed
When even this small pleasure was denied him.
But it wasn’t until tonight when I knelt down
And slipped my hand into Zooey’s waggling mouth
That I remembered how he’d called Jeoffry “the servant
Of the Living God duly and daily serving Him,”
And for the first time understood what it meant.
Because it wasn’t until I saw my own cat

Whine and roll over on her fluffy back
That I realized how gratefully he had watched
Jeoffry fetch and carry his wooden cork
Across the grass in the wet garden, patiently
Jumping over a high stick, calmly sharpening
His claws on the woodpile, rubbing his nose
Against the nose of another cat, stretching, or
Slowly stalking his traditional enemy, the mouse,
A rodent, “a creature of great personal valour,”
And then dallying so much that his enemy escaped.

And only then did I understand
It is Jeoffry—and every creature like him—
Who can teach us how to praise—purring
In their own language,
Wreathing themselves in the living fire.

–Edward Hirsch
audio clip found here

The Dirty Animals

September 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

Last night, in the aftermath of emotional storms, I was getting ready for bed when Lola, Charles’ cat, tried to join us in the bedroom. Mouchette, perched on the dresser by the door, shooed her away with that full-bore, dry-ice hiss that always impresses me. I comforted Mouchette then went to talk to Lola, letting her know that she’s welcome in my home even if she can’t join us in bed. All that did was entice her back to the bedroom where Mouchette ramped up her hiss and growl, delivering it with a ferocity and at a volume I’ve never heard from her before.

We were all stunned with the menace emerging from that feathery little throat. Charles wanted to record it. Fitzroy wanted to go out in the hall.

The bedroom is her sanctuary; my bed her safe place to sleep upside down or on my back, while I work or while I sleep; to sit on my chest when I’m crying, her little owl face watching, demanding that I remember the world outside myself, the tumbling world with its fever-tide of beings. In Argentina, wild cats saved a one-year-old homeless boy from dying of exposure. They covered him with their bodies all night.

Mouchette keeps my antidepressants warm, nesting on the bag I keep them in as if they will someday hatch into tiny golden buddhas. No, she doesn’t think that. It just seems like a good idea to me.

My mother says, referring to my previous blog entry, that my life is not a ruin.
“I don’t think you understand how many people love you.”
“I do,” I said.
“No, I don’t think so.”

I don’t think she gets that the essence of depression is that I know but don’t care. And yet, of course I care. But the caring is way back in the closet, behind years of old coats and broken hangers, Christmas wrap, crutches and weights, my skinny clothes and my witch shoes. If I attempt to wade in, my cache of dirty books falls on my head.

Yes, there’s a book muttering inside me, with dirty bits. Sex and tears, ridiculous antics and even more ridiculous emotions. But! A book! I get to be the decider! I can remember kisses or I can flay people—feed them feet first to demons—have them pulled from bed by an iron hook that shoulders in through their bedroom window, then carries them over miles and flings them into the sea, the deep, cold sea with its toothy children.

A memoir of adult love—will I be swamped in erotic feeling, beaten all night?

I would like to be beaten all night. I understand why people desire to be murdered by their lovers. Agreed, this is an uncommon desire. And I wouldn’t really care for it…anyway, the man I’m thinking of, he likes to stay in his comfort zone; he’d botch it.

Curtains

Putting up new curtains,
other windows intrude.
As though it is that first winter in Cambridge
when you and I had just moved in.
Now cold borscht alone in a bare kitchen.

What does it mean if I say this years later?

Listen, last night
I am on a crying jag
with my landlord, Mr. Tempesta.
I sneaked in two cats.
He screams, “No pets! No pets!”
I become my Aunt Virginia,
proud but weak in the head.
I remember Anna Magnani.
I throw a few books. I shout.
He wipes his eyes and opens his hands.
OK OK keep the dirty animals
but no nails in the walls.
We cry together.
I am so nervous, he says.

I want to dig you up and say, look,
it’s like the time, remember,
when I ran into our living room naked
to get rid of that fire inspector.

See what you miss by being dead?

Ruth Stone

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

September 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

Charles and Lola

I’ve been feeling very loving toward my cats since I returned from California, even though we now have a second kitty litter a few feet from my bed to prevent Mouchette from being ambushed in her most private moments. Two nights ago Charles and I were ready to go to sleep at the same time, which rarely happens, and Fitzroy and Mouchette were on the bed. Moments after I turned off the light, Lola decided to join us. You can’t blame her for that. We were broadcasting family time and she was out there with the tax returns.

But the bedroom is disputed territory and there was a fight for which my body served as an unfortunate stretch of battleground. It was a hot night and I didn’t have even a sheet over me. Lola ran with her claws out and drew blood at several places on my back, then did it again. Charles got up to shut Lola in the living room and decided to stay there with her so she would feel cared for.

Then at dinner last night, deep into a bottle of Spanish red, he was telling me how I should write all the time, fiction, poetry, blog entry, anything, just write. I remarked that I couldn’t afford to always do that and he said he was sorry he wasn’t looking for a job but he had to try one more time with music. I said that was okay, which it is. Then he told me that his out-of-town girlfriend, whom I call Cynthia, was complaining that she never heard from him anymore. He said, and I quote, “I told her you’d starting writing your blog again and she could read about me there.”

Cynthia is a faithful reader. When I was in a bad way, a few months ago, Charles said she told him she wanted to give me a hug.

I said to Charles, “I’m sure she’d rather hear directly from you.”

“I’m too wrapped up in stuff.”

Okay, here’s the dirt: Charles spends all day on the couch with his guitar and computer and sleeps with his cat at night. I’m never quite sure if he’s here, especially when the air conditioner is going. Otherwise, he does dishes, takes the occasional walk and attempts to make the cats friends by holding Lola in his arms and bringing her progressively closer and closer to Fitzroy and Mouchette. He believes this is working. I make him clean my wounds with peroxide. He seems happy.

Meanwhile, the other other woman in my life, whom I’ll call Felicia, sent me an email recently and ended with “hugs.” She was commenting on this blog. We don’t have a regular correspondence.

So, things are less hurtful, but no less weird. I always liked weird but it’s different when it’s the simple exhalation of me living. The obsessive guitar player may be a dangerous influence. I’m no longer lonely, but I’m not communicating much either. It’s not love that’s lacking, but most of our love passes through the body of a cat before surfacing into language. There’s more I could say but I’m starting to feel like Clint Eastwood.

So my many dears, my wayward kittens, make my day: petition whatever gods you believe in to bring us gentle rains when rains are needed, peace among felines, a Republican defeat in November, and hugs all around.

The weird stuff I deal with as he told me to: write it.

Looking Back in My 81st Year

How did we get to be old ladies—
my grandmother’s job—when we
were the long-leggèd girls?
— Hilma Wolitzer

Instead of marrying the day after graduation,
in spite of freezing on my father’s arm as
here comes the bride struck up,
saying, I’m not sure I want to do this,

I should have taken that fellowship
to the University of Grenoble to examine
the original manuscript
of Stendhal’s unfinished Lucien Leuwen,

I, who had never been west of the Mississippi,
should have crossed the ocean
in third class on the Cunard White Star,
the war just over, the Second World War

when Kilroy was here, that innocent graffito,
two eyes and a nose draped over
a fence line. How could I go?
Passion had locked us together.

Sixty years my lover,
he says he would have waited.
He says he would have sat
where the steamship docked

till the last of the pursers
decamped, and I rushed back
littering the runway with carbon paper . . .
Why didn’t I go? It was fated.

Marriage dizzied us. Hand over hand,
flesh against flesh for the final haul,
we tugged our lifeline through limestone and sand,
lover and long-leggèd girl.

Maxine Kumin

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