He has no idea
he’s old and dying
or that Christmas is
four weeks away

since something in the
night destroyed his leap
half-blind he hobbles
bed to box to dish and back

what little gusto’s left
within his scrawny, scruffy
ever-hungry self is saved
for circling ankles in the kitchen

and proclaiming “now!  now!”

his history is unknown
he came “as is”
indoors from darkness
many Christmases ago

and since he cannot jump
nor can I any longer bend
to gather him up high
he sidles to my chair

I grab him by the nape
the way his mother might
have done in kittenhood
and lift him to my lap

we clean the corners of
his dear green eyes
then hug and stroke and
purr and whisper lies

about this age of ours
about what always was
about how Christmas comes
and he has no idea.

27 responses »

  1. Oh Cynthia, this is so sad and tender, it brought tears to my eyes, so utterly beautiful. The last two stanzas are so loving.

    He has had (is still having) a good life. One of our cats is now 18 and we have to clean one of her constantly sticky eyes.

    They bring so much joy and sadness.

    • Yes, joy and sadness…maybe we can’t have one without the other…the animals keep us “real” in that respect….they are not at all impressed with any of our finaglings, but do understand some things about love… Thank you for appreciating this, and saying so!

  2. Hi Cynthia, this is a lovely poem, and cats are great companions although I think they don’t feel for us the way we love them. I loved my cats very much too. Their old age was not always comfortable, but as long as they didn’t suffer, we took care of them as well, as we could, when it got worse, the vet had them put to sleep, which is the kindest thing to do I think. One cat just went to the neighbours garden and died there when he was old. That was was caled Mirakel 🙂 he really was one. 🙂

    • What a sweet story, Ina. I always thought of myself as more of a “dog person” but inherited my mother’s cats when she died and grew to love them. They are strange, wonderful creatures. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

    • The livestock weathered the move much better than the human, I would say….and yes, a familiar landmark am I…now if I can just not trip over the tourist who circles me at least four times between refrigerator and kitchen sink…..

  3. It’s a lovely poem Cynthia so full of the sadness of aging and yet complete with love which, maybe, makes it all worth while. My mother always said that youth is wasted on the young! Cats are creatures unto themselves and, as you write, they surely neither know that they are aging or about our human festivals. I congratulate you on the skill with which you made this poem so topical to this season. Cheerio, Jane

    • You have suggested the deeper part, here, which was a meditation on how animals–unlike ourselves–do not cling to the past (Christmas) or fear the future (death), but live,as the cliche goes, “in the moment”. This cat, Beau, has an insistent meow that sounds for all the world like “now!” Thank you so much for your thoughtful and evocative comment, Jane.

  4. Nice Christmas poem, Cynthia.

    Dogs are similar to cats in that they do not put much stock in the vibrancy of the future or in the halcyon days of the past. But one Christmas, many years ago, my dog Noodles went into the crèche and ate the baby Jesus. Our dear pets, being opportunistic, have a different sense of holiday decorum. I’ve always remembered that and it makes me laugh still.

    • That I was temporarily incapacitated by laughter from so much as lifting one hunt-and-peck digit to the tablet keyboard is my lame reason for not responding sooner to your agreeable comment. Absolutely love the Noodles story….my kind of Christmas…. and much needed as I contemplate the onslaught of another festive onslaught. Thank you for stopping by…I have before, and plan to continue checking in on exiled prospero, Ariel, et al…..

  5. So, here we are in the Midwest blizzard today and I have had a delicious time, getting my wordpress reactivated, of course I could not remember the password, thank goodness they are forgiving about such things, just so I could spend the afternoon and evening with you, drinking tea and relishing your words, your images, the generous offerings that tell me “yes, she made it to Maine! and she is writing!” I loved these two most recent poems, Cyn, thank you for such nourishment and tenderness and truth-telling. So glad and grateful!

    • Such a lovely thought, that you spent the time with tea and me…had I known, I would have joined you in a cuppa, this many miles away! And thank you for the compliments (will either of us ever get comfortable with such, given the givens?) I hope the blizzard passes quickly and the digging out is not too terrible…and I also hope you ‘re not sending it thisaway…much love from your OLD friend…..

  6. What a lovely poem about the tenderness and delicacy of an older cat. My old cats all seem to have integrated the “it’s all one” philosophy–whether sitting on my lap, lounging on a sofa, or lapping at the water. Old urgencies are gone; palsied, blind, they are patient with themselves and with me. The frantic dance to the can opener has been reduced to a stately sit.

    • How well you describe the eldercat. This Beau has also become very patient–in all rooms but the kitchen. There he has discovered a late blooming talent for the ballet, executing the occasional (feeble) entrechat, endless pirouettes, and I await an arabesque any day now….

    • Someone told me that to write at least one cat poem was a rite of passage for a poet; I know I could write many more than one. They are wondrous creatures–poems in themselves. Thank you for your kind words!

  7. This poem is a real heartbreaker, for me. It is so realistically and minutely observed and full of the poignancy of life and death. My cats are old–22, a trio at 16, and our 12 or 13 year old, Mrs. Palmer, who is blind and battles arrithymias. They’ve become married to routine; they look at toys skeptically and then look at me as if to say “you wish!”. I feel that we have a geriatric home here (and I am just one of the inmates). I have learned not to declaim “Now, Now” but they say it from time to time. Mostly they are patient, almost resigned as if they’ve learned that imprecations will not hasten me. Fruitless and bootless, they have decided. Best wishes to Beau.

    • Some days Beau (about 19) has difficulty walking a straight line–I pretend he’s dancing. My other cat, Hallelujah, (Lulu) is about 13, and still pretty frisky. Then there’s Chloe, the big black dog who obeys them, her muzzle gone gray at eleven years old, and her hips stiff and sore–like mine. Since Mary died, they are my only real family. Of course I ponder how it will all play out, but they don’t. Aren’t they lucky? Sad thoughts, but sending empathetic love from one altenheim to another…

  8. Having known Mr. Beau for so long, It is sad to see his decline yet he adapts to his aging process. He reflects what many refuse to accept that there is a season or time for all things, to live, to die, to change, and to adapt. Beau just accepts this NOW moment without pining for the past or the future. Beau is indeed lucky.

    • The funny thing is that he now loves to visit with company, he the shy hermit in the past. Now that he’s pathetic to behold, he shows himself! Still hanging-in there however….an extra loud “now” for auntie Eileen!

  9. That’s a really lovely poem about your cat, quite beautiful and realistically described, I can picture those scenes so well! 🙂 It’s sad, but the way life is, and is meant to be, so I guess that shouldn’t be a bad thing really. I’ve never had the experience of a pet ageing to that extent, most of my pets from years ago passed on a lot sooner. Although I can remember a woman my mother knew when I was a child who was in her 80’s and owned a little French Bulldog. He wasn’t pretty to look at, he snuffled a lot as if he had a permanent cold, he was getting on in years, and he had trouble getting up onto her lap. I can remember I didn’t like him much! But over time I could see that they adored each other, just because, they only had each other and no-one else, so I began to look at that little snuffly dog in a very different way.

    I think life is very much about relationships, of all kinds, and how much we learn from it all, and our beloved pets are very much part of that experience! 🙂

    • Thank you, Suzy, for your lovely comment. Relationships–of all kinds–are the spice of life, and the fur persons who live with us can really be our teachers. Thank you for your visit!

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