The cat: sky-gray and fence post slender.
Me: twenty-three and in my first real apartment,
in my first real city, outside of short term college hovels
with short term leases and cheap-ass furniture (not) included.
I found the cat while helping a (former) friend
clean out his house, junk-laden and miscarrying memories
like fruit, love, and children that were never meant to be.
A (misconceived) polyamory experiment gone wrong – and now
the house was being emptied of old photos, clothes, and
a barn cat hiding inside every shadow watching humans
flit to and fro with boxes in their arms. In between boxes,
I carried her away, too.
In my arms: the cat (Patches).
In her belly: (unknown) kittens.
I touched the rounded hardness just below her ribcage
covered in soft, cinereal fur and wondered
what was beneath. I took her to the vet
with the expectation of a short examination and a
routine operation to spay her,
just like me: that spring, I’d had my tubes tied.
Twenty-three and childfree, gritted teeth like shields:
no life would pass anew through me.
No danger of firebrand words stamped inside a child’s chest.
No leather belts biting a child’s hide.
That afternoon, a phone call.
“Your cat, Patches, is carrying kittens.
She is a few weeks along.
She can still carry them to term, but it is
still early enough to terminate the pregnancy.
The choice is up to you.”
For a moment, hesitation:
a thought hung in the air, examined from all directions,
a prism with light cast through from every angle.
Keep the kittens, and watch life unfold:
find good homes for every little bundle of breath and fur.
But two other cats shared our space with me and Patches,
and a batch of kittens would make me afoul of my lease.
I saw myself, a vacant wire woman,
incapable of any more care and responsibility than a
hardscrabble (undiagnosed Asperger) twenty-something
with paychecks strung together by ratty threads and the borrowed glue
of weeks stretched beyond their skins.
Afterwards, Patches returned home,
a solitary (fur) woman who preferred the company
of darkened spaces under my bed,
empty window ledges,
and occasionally, shelter underneath my hand
on the space next to me on the (rent-to-own) couch.
After Virgil moved in, she sometimes preferred his lap.
She’d eat her food, sometimes share our curry,
and then sniff and beg for more. But she was still
a solitary woman,
protecting herself with hiding places and hissing.
She was just like me.
Nowadays, I give birth
in other ways. This wire woman is now
covered with flesh and filled with words,
translated from pictures and music purloined and stored
in the raven’s treasure chest behind my eyes.
But every now and again, I find kittens below my surface:
a little one curved like a kidney bean sleeps
behind my spleen, and another little life lies
curled inside my thigh – I might name him Dionysus
after the god who sprung forth from his father’s body.
Sometimes, I feel purring come forth from little red kettle drum
inside my chest, and I find a kitten
resting inside, finding sanctuary there. And she trusts me.
But I wish I could give her a reason
why she should.
© 2011 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
This week at We Write Poems, Neil asks us to address shame…in a manner that “expresses and releases the experience”. I had to think about this one for a while, and the poem just came this morning. I don’t think “enjoy” would be an appropriate word, but I hope you walked away from this poem with something.