Mercy for the wild

brown tabby cat sitting on brown wooden stool
Photo by Anderson Martins on Pexels.com

Quarantined kids escape briefly, screeching loud into empty streets

their thin bodies desperate for release and water sprayed

high into quiet air

I grew my nails because I am not touched, I do not arouse desire

there is no purpose in their being short or useful

for love I had once, in the magnolia dimness of loveliness.

Racketed sound is a mockery, a reminder of how things used to be

when you believed in love and it slipped through your hands

like porcupine quills that have no sharp

distracting yourself with empty boxes and things unpacked

for you belong not here nor there, nor any place

always the need to pack up and relocate, find what

has never sought finding in great wild.

You may judge if you wish

I did a good thing, though you will say it was wrong

I saw nature today at its most timorous and yet bold

I let it go, I let it go.

Many months I planned the capture of her off spring

as she ate from my plates, watching side-ways with distrusting gaze

I am after all, someone prone to superstition and wonder

she arrived a month after the death of my cat

it seemed in her resemblance, it was his return

then she is pregnant and I believe I can have

a house full of life again.

But this heart cannot take one more attempt at loving

this body though young, remembers the torment of losing

those mercies in the night and belief things last eternal

when nothing but the certainty of natures hammer sounds

and nature is not a kindly thing

though perhaps in her supposed cruelty, she is pure

whilst we save cats and neuter so that they may

grow fat and listless without purpose, swatting flies for entertainment

our city nearly drained of ferals and life, and hope, it occurred to me

I didn’t want her caught and diminished by

our belief we know what is right for

creatures of the wild.

I would say, especially as a virus seeks to diminish our population

a mass of humanity grown out of control

this is natures doing, this is the deliberate

consequence of our unprecedented surge to exist

maybe she will forgive

if she does not, is that even wrong?

We place our beliefs as if they are more

than tin soldiers and waxen effigies

as proofs of some superior knowledge

all against the tilled marrow of this earth

long outlasting us, fecund dirt and soil

from which life springs eternal and unfettered

laughing at our arrogance with our

purple capes of chastity and piety

golden crosses forged from raped stone

rules to contradict and suppress the powerless.

She was caught in this cold cage and I saw

her yellow eyes find mine

they say if you stare too long into the eyes of

a wild creature they will perceive a threat

better to bow your head in prayer and submit

they say too much that is tired and old

she looked at me and with the beseechmentof her kind and mine

she asked to be wild

not neutered for ‘her own good’

because she will develop cancer and her kittens

will die time and again to the coral snake and all

other natural things.

She wanted her chance at freedom

she would take them away now, her kittens whom I watched from

my isolation and my hurt, brightening my day

a salve of selfish joy, what is it that saves

the sanctity of the unsaved?

Her shoulders were down, almost crushed, I knew

to release was the greater good

as the wild rose is always more beautiful

on the wild rose tree and not in a vase

in a sterile room to bloom and wilt and lose

richer, than the bland salt-less life I lead

tame without children, without those who

call me when they promise to love and obey.

Our human folly I saw as glaringly

as those kittens in a line, following their mother

through high grass away

my heart stung, same as when my own cat

breathed his last and we said it was a mercy

to euthanize him in his pain

but what of his freedom?

Did he go from that place of needles and

kitty grooming and dental hygiene for pets

to something as noble as her green field?

I saw roses die when I was very young

even as I dried them and tried to keep their wholeness

they crumbled because life is bidden by our false extension

but the visceral and the sad and the sorrowful and the tragic

and quite often

something more achingly beautiful than we

with all our art and books and music

could ever be.

I didn’t want to let her go, I wanted to control

insert myself into the story

trap her kittens to tame them

save them from a less noble fate

and yet who am I?

Am I a worthy example?

with my loss of love, my lack of family?

who was I to prescribe my way? To these

who had every right to live their way?

You see, I have long known I am not

their superior, they are not inferior to me

I am neither their master nor willing to decide

their fate when they have a greater sense of life

real life, than I, in my artifice, ever will

I do not eat flesh for this reason, it is to me

a cannibalism in the way we farm and produce

milk and animal products neatly spit out

without thought to their suffering, or the

terrible way they know what will happen.

We are unnatural in our artificial world

we are too aware of things, our intelligence

can be as much a curse.

Many days I wake and have such a pain inside

me, I know only comes from the unbearable

awareness and I wish I were as simple and as

loving as those felines in my garden or that

I had not listened to sensibility as a young girl

and like this cat, who so resembles mine, who is dead

believed like the earth, after rain, we should

grow wild and free

unbidden.

Yet we have in a way, and with our vast numbers

disease and famine, virus and pest try to

even the score

it is as natural as it comes to get a virus and die

but we are not able to accept that, we believe we

should conquer this God given earth, spreading ourselves out

until we are no different to bacteria or roaches.

I pity us, I pity what we know and do not know

in some ways we are the same as this mother

trying to save her kittens because of an impulse

in her case the purity of instinct

in ours we have choices and often they lead to greed

and an insatiable desire for more.

I choose

seeing her resigned, defeated self

I release the cage, it springs back, she rushes out

it feels so right to see her dart across the field, unencumbered

I know she will take them far away now

I know I will lose them

I also know I never possessed them

and that it is right this way

for pets are not ours to ‘own’ or be master of, they are the chained

learned mules and horses who have been broken

maybe they do not know it and are happy

but what of those who are still wild?

Who am I to take, to decide? To think I know best?

I have read all the books about feral cat population

show cruel it is for nature to flourish unchecked

how disease runs rampant and sickness abounds

and I think of us and our wish to have choices

even as the same thing happens and we perish

to the hands of disease and the will of something more powerful

than our tinker toys and our belief we know all.

As much as she punishes me for my error

walking away, leaving nothing but footprints

in dry sand on my emptied deck

I feel I have listened to

something deeper than talk radio or

my biology books, I have instead

heard the call of the wild and it told me

do not always think you can disturb

this felted land with your superior knowledge

you should only know, you do not know

much.

How am I an example with my perpetuate grief

my unfulfillment, unhappy childhood, empty rooms.

All the awareness we have can be a curse

better to be wild, not to expect love or loyalty

those are human constraints, doomed often to failure

better to be without rule, not to live for glory or purpose beyond

the simplicity of instinctmy instinct told me to open the cage

it has always sought to protect rather than capture

even if she dies out there, she dies intact

not a creature molded by us, into something hybrid and wrong.

I have nothing in my arms now, as I had

nothing in my arms then

and I don’t cut my nails because there is no-one to love

or hold me when I need to be held

because humans promise and break those promises like

egg shells cast on skillets

because you told me you loved me always and

soon you couldn’t even lift a finger or try

to write a line in love, for your bitterness soured your

entire soul and I had a heart filled

but with no way to empty it.

I no longer want to be let down and told

I don’t write because there’s nothing to say

and I don’t want a relationship based on writing

because all those who were separated in the past

wrote letters to each other many, many times

no matter their distance.

It is rather, our modern impatience that says

I want it all now, I want it all or none

then you shall have none, as I shall have none

and all those wasted years were a grave mistake

just as many things I have done are.

I am not making another mistake

I will not keep her behind bars

where I have been waiting for you to do right by me

where I have been expecting to be treated right

when most people are anything but … merciful

it is our human world and I wish I were

instead that mother or a deer unbound

it is sad that we die of the virus

it is more sad, that we live as we do

things happen as lessons to teach us

will we listen? Or will we repeat

and repeat and repeat?

I release her back

into the mercy of the wild

where she looks once

over her shoulder and then

quick as lightning

she is gone.

Written in memory of the cat who loved me loyally more than any person ever has and whom I loved very much and brought with me to this country so long ago.

Halo 2001-2019. RIP.

For Halo

My debt rests in your fur

as they light it

and it burns

and your form shrinks

from this world

your black and white paw limp against my clutching

fingers wishing you here

those images are cookie cut into my mind

called intrusive thoughts and flash-backs

I know them well

they are not my friend as you were my friend

I imagine what you feel and then recall

you no longer feel anything

though that does not seem right

without religion I am left unknowing

where you land next or if you will

awaken in paradise or remain slumbering

whether sleep or a void, if we can truly leave

and have nothing of ourselves remain

but ash and debris

it seems impossible that you were once

jumping onto the table and making me laugh

with your antics

only to be nowhere and gone eternal

I may not possess sufficient faith

to build castles in the sky but

your energy stays like stillness in

this empty house and from the corner of my eye

I still see your shadow slink just as

my grandmother’s voice is pitch perfect in my head

is that imagination or wishful?

Or do ghosts haunt us willing supplicants?

A bouquet of delusion to soothe our empty

arms or

will you live forever within me? And when I take

my turn at the Ferris wheel

our nothingness will reside near one another

I like the idea, all I have loved will

mingle as returned starlight in the ether

and touch one another with reminder

for being alone or worm food is

a cold dinner companion I wish not

to believe in

even if God turns his head from me and always has

for his man-made lack of female

and my rib is long and sticks into my gut

reminding me I am ever every man’s equal

and will never lay down to those dull prescriptions

of what constitutes truth from a man’s tongue.

Your fur was thicker than all the cats here

who grew up hot and listless on porches

you came with me in a pink plastic box

obscene in its garishness we laughed

putting it through customs

the harried lady at flight desk remarked

well there he goes as you were taken

hand delivered, to the pit of the plane

and I worried because I wanted you to be

on my knee but no madam, I’m afraid for long haul

he has to ride in cargo and don’t worry

few of them get upset, as if she were crouched among you knowing this

this seemed false as so many things do

when big decisions linger like absent friends

at the periphery of moments

too quick, too big, for staying still

briefly I wondered; Should I really be moving?

to this strange country I do not yet know and

burning this bridge indefinitely

it felt as wrong as right ever was and I stood

in the airport watching the thin man take you

behind a curtain and then as you were on your way

so was I.

You see …

I took my cue from you

quite often

and of the two of us when we landed

I think you looked less bedraggled

whilst I fought with immigration because one of my papers

was not ‘just so’ and they called and fussed because

immigrants are not very welcome in any country

and annoy those whose jobs it is to ensure

smooth sailing

and when we reunited

on different soil with the sound of cicadas or crickets

I was not sure in those days

you were hot against my grandmothers blanket

and had peed because they don’t let animals

out to the bathroom at 30,000 feet

which was exactly how I felt, hot and wet and stinking

at the same time, in this odd place where

people were outgoing and spurned shyness or other

attributes we both possessed

with aplom

following our dreams or maybe just mine

as your dreams were about mice or pigeons and later

lizards and snakes

as you learned the ways of the desert

and perhaps the tenor of your meow changed

to reflect the inflection of your adopted country.

It may seem easier but it is not easy for any of us

who come by boat, plane or smuggle, to

lands not our own, we each bring with us

that belly full of ache

and you were always able to

soothe mine with your purr and ever

reminder of our start beneath colder skies and

smaller streets with littler houses and narrow

rooms where we knew our place and here

we could only speculate or clumsily test

our sea legs against

the strangeness of being

with mistake and estrangement

our sole friends quite a while.

Unable even to drive I walked you down the road

for your first vet check and people gaped

from their large cars at the floundering Europeans

walking where no-one walks and everyone uses

big trucks to go one mile and purchase a giant

sippy cup and some Ding Dongs, things with

names that sound fun and 40 additives

my kind of humor and banter lost against

surge of habit, the vet seemed surprised I

had carried you rather than driven and tut-tutted

at your lack of dental hygiene

but remarked how beautiful your thick fur was

and how cats in these parts tend to have

snake skin, we all laughed at that, even you

cast a fish eye his direction like you

possessed the real secrets.

I remember those exploits and driving to Canada on another

exodus when stateless we began again

another groove in our fitful recording

the deep snow and your paw prints leading

me nearer and further

like ice fish we swam in our odd circumstance

always together, staring out stranger windows like

spectators at our own fair ground

in cold you slept beside me and purred

in your sleep to the sound of icicles

warming and falling into snow the

sky a heavy weight holding its breath

eventually we returned to the place of infernal heat

and sizzling side walks where no one but us

and straggly weeds dared to step and the years wound like

lost yarn beneath our odd foray

until you were old and fragile

and I barely noticing because I did not want to

believe you could quit being the little cat

in the pink plastic box glad to see me at the

first airport in our new world.

It was naive or immature of me to forget

cats lives do not echo ours and mine seemed

suddenly far too long and yours bitterly short

a terrible echo of inequality I did not

have the strength to imagine losing you

when together we always were.

Even people who wrote said; ‘Dear Candy, Dear Halo’

as if they could see the join of your fur and my

burning skin against the other

I told myself I would be there when they

sent you to that place I could not follow

despite knowing in my mind the terrible pictures

would roam long and unbidden for many years

to look into your eyes and remind you how much you mean

to me and always how I will look for you

until we are reunited and then I expect

all this will be mere bad dreams and

again we can go forward, or side ways or

whatever direction the after world takes us

but please together, is all I want

for with you gone, I wait without watch

an absence greater than anguish

for you were my best friend in this lonely world

assuaging the hard edges and frayed corners

we came here together and still I am

more lost without you than when I arrived

for your bright eyes and happy tail

gave me courage Halo and ever shall I

look for you coming into the kitchen in

the morning with your half howl of greeting

starting my day and ending it with

putting you to your bed

never once thinking there could be a time

when you were not and I still went on.

Aristotle said it best; a relationship is

two bodies one soul

that is real love

and we are floundering when absent from one another

like the ice fish when it warms up

and water is all but gone.