The Dead Cat Feeling: a poem

I remember the sickness
that spread through our barn cats like
rot. Old toms, kittens not yet weaned, hissers, purrers alike.
Fifteen years old, I buried them all,
one by one,
in the backyard under the oak,
in the apple orchard, and by the stump of the pine.
I had to keep plotting
new cemeteries
because there were
just too many bodies
for one.

I buried my best friends
under those trees.

Each time I thrust the shovel
through the grass-knotted dirt,
the first cut of earth, with the kitten
I couldn’t nurse back to health
lying still as wax by my boot on
a stained kitchen towel,
I said I would never be able to handle
burying another; I’d been cleaved
too thin already.

Little did I know then
that I’d sit up at night with many more cats,
petting, feeding, praying,
only to find them stiff in the morning.
I would have to find a new place
to bury them, and another,
and marvel at how many times a heart could break,
smaller and smaller until it’s sand or sludge,
until death no longer hurt.
But death always hurt.

Today, I have the same feeling
as I watch my country
eat itself.
As I watch its people, its values,
fall into graves
one by one,
so fast,
there’s no time
to grieve.

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