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Ava Leavell Haymon.

© Ava Leavell Haymon.
Used by permission.
All rights reserved.

It’s not just a cat dying

this time. It’s Love

itself, impaled in this blind

arthritic flea-bit female,

whose last hold on her destiny

stares out green dinner-plate eyes

that do not blink. The cat has not blinked

in all her eighteen years.

Our last pet — it’s come to this.

Love dribbles out, flesh

driven old and mad with it —

the boy gone off, the girl

grown — the dogs,

the other cats, countless fish,

the burned toad who died of a hug,

the ones that turned bottom up,

the ones that ran away, that ran

in front of cars, gerbils, a hamster,

a pair of ducks that never learned to fly

but waddled out of the yard (when

the steady vee of wings beating north

was seen in the sky) and into the mouth

of the neighbor’s hound.

We traveled together to the spring near Eleusis,

where Aphrodite bathed to renew her virginity

after every act of love. I splashed the cold water

on my neck, drizzled some down the front of my jeans

when no one was looking. The daughter back home

heard the stories from this place

her mother left her for,

and when kittens were born

—without labor, without home,

without owner or welcome —

in the snaky damp crawl space

under the house, the dark

where no good child would ever go,

she named them Hermes, Hades, Aphrodite.

Aphrodite, born without invitation,

a feral thing. The nameless mother chose

to set down her litter here, where we wanted

pedigrees, wanted to choose our pets,

abort the mistakes, spay the extras,

wanted to plan which animals to feed,

to care about, to pay the vet

outrageous fees for, none covered by insurance.

Hades ran away, after his mother,

and with her entered the realm of darkness,

and Hermes stayed, the favorite, quick and charming

killer of squirrels, the messenger, and

Aphro, well, she was dumb and we made fun of her

and she followed her clever brother around

and looked confused, but she grew long hair,

soft and gray and white as dove’s wings,

and was gloriously, pointlessly beautiful.

When she curled on the deck in the sun,

a background to frame her

would rush forward for the honor.

She’s still dumb and her generic cat food

costs fifteen dollars a sack, and this morning

she walked off the side of the porch

and fell into the aspidistra border.

We’ve had four mourning ceremonies

complete with songs, because we keep thinking

she’s dying, or will soon. While we sit

for breakfast at our small table

with only two plates and not much to talk about,

Aphrodite, the back yard behind her

a graveyard of other pets, pulls

her front feet under, wraps her balding tail

around them like it’s a mantle of finest wool.

Turns her head toward us, locks her eyes

in our direction as though she could see,

and does not blink, and will not look away.

Text prepared by:


Haymon, Ava Leavell. Kitchen Heat. Baton Rouge: LSU Pr., 2006. © Ava Leavell Haymon. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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