The kind you’re born with, the kind you choose, the kind that teach Catholic school
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I am brushing the loose fur from this cat
and singing some dumb song to him.
Can you hear me? He’s nearly twenty, kidneys starting
to fail, hips a bit arthritic. When the sun arrives,
I’ll pinch the spent blossoms from the hanging petunia
and trim the brown, crisp stalks from the marigolds
and black-eyed Susans. Thank you for the rain
that came in the night, slow and heavy,
like fruit falling again and again
through the forest’s million leaves. Right now
two bats pedal their blackness above the pond,
and the sky, remembering that rosy light,
practices its pink version of morning.
I’ve been saving his white fur in a plastic bag
with the tortoise-shell fur of his companion,
gone since last November. I’ve been turning
the old, dead flower heads, the crumpled
leaves and stems, into the garden soil.
As much as I can, in notebooks,
I’ve been keeping track of those bats,
the evening tree frogs, the various shimmering
snakes — especially the ring-necked one in the kitchen —
the birds that come and go (we’re not far
from junco season, you know) and the animal tracks,
vague but visible on the trail (remember
the beetle tracks, delicate as embroidery
on a scrap of snow that one warm February?),
all the little miracles, the surprising ways in which
the world keeps becoming one thing and then another.
I’m not sure what I am supposed to be
doing here. Lately there’s been war
and cancer and children stolen
right out of their beds and the usual waning
of birdsong as autumn approaches,
and I can’t figure out what to do about any of it.
Every day, someone — a mother or father,
some finch or fox, a stand of spruce — dies,
but so far I haven’t been among them.
So I’m just tending to what is here.
I’ve washed that teacup nearly every day
for more than a dozen years, swept squirrel scat
from the deck all summer, pulled strands
of my own hair, often gray, from my jacket
with a wad of tape. I let myself be happy
over nothing in particular — just now a woodchuck
picking an overripe banana and a cantaloupe rind
out of the compost pile, holding one
and then the other in his nappy black fingers
as he eats. He watches me
watching him from the window while I bite a peach,
the two of us feeding the same body.