Remembering my dear dead black cat sometimes returns
Others to my sight—Christine, her kittens Chatto and
Windus (and Fergie), Emmeline and hers, cross Pumpkin,
Bertha of the placid gray, and quiet young Eggplant,
Flora, Bert, nasty Zoltan, Wolfgang and Ludwig’s sweet
Mother Priscilla (out of whom by Wilson they were);
Where are the Others’ cats I knew—Georgia, Maisie, Wow
(Of these only noble Rose remains)? Where are they now?
And where are all their days, the yesteryears and images
That melt like black snow along a dark, familiar rug?
Furred felicities absent them from us in a while;
Months ago I’d promised you something for poor Wolfgang:
What can be said of dead cats that is not dead itself?

What can be said of dead cats? That is not dead itself
Which can escape the icy caress of accurate
Memory (and, you might add, make her stuffy, bemused
Daughters buzz off); come help me then with some fancy-work
(Like all cats I have known he belonged also to you):
A corona for Wolfgang now all of evergreen
Intertwined with catnip which would send him and Ludwig
(His poor gray brother who predeceased him by not quite
A year) literally up the wall. But you must pluck
Faded souvenirs like that figuratively out
Of this wreath lest it wither now like last summer’s news.
There can be no catalogue of habits, or times when…
No contrived inventory of storied occasions.

No contrived inventory of storied occasions
Could record the string of being holding them in line,
The part of whatever room it was that for a time
Became the place of the cat, lair, veld, branch, hearth or crag.
And yet now—even with your forefinger at my lips—
I reform unutterable losses, reaffirm
What I was making of him alive. Dead now a year,
He is in my hands; I feel him draped around my neck,
Hear the all-but-silent fall of paw on midnight floor,
Drops of some tincture of the Absolute. Absence breeds
Presences in the cells it hollows out in the rock
Of our days, and I can’t wonder how, in shudders of
Remembering, my dear dead black cat sometimes returns.

This Issue

June 16, 1983