Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Dying Tomcat

My birthday was the other day, and I have a tradition of pulling a book off the shelf and reading a poem at random on my birthday morning, not for any necromantical purpose, but simply to make a small space for beauty and expansiveness before the diurnal responsibilities come to trample them down.  This is the poem I read: 

For a Dying Tomcat Who's Relinquished his Former Hissing and Predatory Nature

I remember the long orange carp you once scooped
from the neighbor’s pond, bounding beyond
her swung broom, across summer lawns

to lay the fish on my stoop. Thanks
for that. I’m not one to whom offerings
often get made. You let me feel

how Christ might when I kneel,
weeping in the dark
over the usual maladies: love and its lack.

Only in tears do I speak
directly to him and with such
conviction. And only once you grew frail

did you finally slacken into me,
dozing against my ribs like a child.
You gave up the predatory flinch

that snapped the necks of so many
birds and slow-moving rodents.
Now your once powerful jaw

is malformed by black malignancies.
It hurts to eat. So you surrender in the way
I pray for: Lord, before my own death,

let me learn from this animal’s deep release
into my arms. Let me cease to fear
the embrace that seeks to still me.
It's by Mary Karr.  I thought it was wonderful.


Rodak said...

And so it was. Thanks for posting that.

Honeybee said...

A belated Happy Birthday to you! I hope you had a day filled with peace and joy.

The poem stabbed my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing it.

Melanie B said...

Very wonderful. Thank you so much for that. Not what I expected from the title.

Pentimento said...

Oh, me too, Honeybee. Thanks for the birthday wishes -- my birthday is St. Irenaeus's day.

Janet said...

More by Karr


Before my first communion at 40, I clung
to doubt as Satan spider-like stalked
the orb of dark surrounding Eden
for a wormhole into paradise.

God had first formed me in the womb
small as a bit of burger.
Once my lungs were done
He sailed a soul like a lit arrow

to inflame me. Maybe that piercing
made me howl at birth,
or the masked creatures
whose scalpel cut a lightning bolt to free me

I was hoisted by the heels and swatted, fed
and hauled through rooms.Time-lapse photos show
my fingers grew past crayon outlines.

my feet came to fill spike heels.

Eventually, I lurched out to kiss the wrong mouths,
get stewed, and sulk around. Christ always stood
to one side with a glass of water.
I swatted the sap away.

When my thirst got great enough
to ask, a stream welled up inside;
some jade wave buoyed me forward;
and I found my self upright

in the instant, with a garden
inside my own ribs aflourish. There, the arbor leafs.
The vines push out plump grapes.
You are loved, someone said. Take that

and eat it.

Sinners Welcome

I opened up my shirt to show this man
the flaming heart he lit in me, and I was scooped up
like a lamb and carried to the dim warm.
I who should have been kneeling
was knelt to by one whose face
should be emblazoned on every coin and diadem:

no bare-chested boy, but Ulysses
with arms thick from the hard-hauled ropes.
He'd sailed past then clay gods
and the singing girls who might have made of him

a swine. That the world could arrive at me
with him in it, after so much longing--
impossible. He enters me and joy
sprouts from us as from a split seed.


mrsdarwin said...

Happy birthday! What a lovely way to start out the occasion.

Pentimento said...

Thank you for posting those, Janet. They are stunning. My Jewish-atheist sister-in-law gave me "Sinners Welcome" for Christmas a couple of years ago.

Thanks for the birthday wishes, Mrs. D!

lissla lissar said...

Oh, those are all beautiful!

Thanks. And very happy belated birthday.