While we never step in the same stream twice,
          the same story as we know it,
                    the same dark room we wake and rise to,

so too is there a river we never leave,
          which is why, as I checked my watch that morning
                    before we drove to put our cat to sleep,

I felt a heavy current at the backs
          of my knees, an invisible water
                    on my arms, my shoulders, over my head,

and at the bottom of it all our cat,
          oblivious, walking a crooked line,
                    attending to her ritual of meat and pills.

How deceitful we felt as we carried her
          trusting body, newly groomed, and laid it out
                    on the steel table, committing ourselves

to the final motions: the humming shaver
          over her leg, the needle’s slow insertion,
                    a bead of blood in the gradual syringe,

and her eyes, now milky with age,
          sealing up as her neck wilted, death’s
                    white blossom in my unfamiliar hand.

It’s as if some shine lay buried
          in the details, in the cold tray
                    of sterile silver, the bright cloth

and gloved assurance so vivid beside
          the shy confusion of our mercy.
                    Such power in a final day it seems

an overdose of life, a flooding
          of the open eye. No wisdom
                    could prepare us for the prick and wonder,

how her gaze would narrow as if in pleasure,
          the way I half expected to feel her ghost
                    flitting through me, though I never did,

the body released, we say, though oddly weighted,
          like a mirror the night had fallen
                    into, cleared of its last ripple of breath.