Tuesday, April 10

Posted by Laurel Garver on Tuesday, April 10, 2012 22 comments
My weekend took a rather tragic turn. The beautiful stray cat we took in last May to be my daughter's kitty passed away.

We learned last summer that Rosie had feline leukemia and we watched her go through successive bouts of anemia, appetite loss, poor grooming, UTIs and respiratory infections over and over and over. My daughter adored her and loved to hug, snuggle and brush her. Despite all the sickness, Rosie had a very sweet and loving disposition.

On Sunday, Rosie's milder illnesses took a sudden turn for the worse. She couldn't stand, wouldn't drink. Her breathing was labored and her heart rate slow, so we took her to a university veterinary hospital--the only place open on a holiday. After the vets confirmed she was in late stages of the disease, we sat by petting her as the doctor sent her to eternal rest.

At times like these, I find great comfort in poetry that addresses these tough places of loss. Below are some contemporary poems by four gifted, living poets that look at themes of death, loss and grieving.

I imagine for some of you readers, your initial reaction is to now click away rather than read on. Our culture seems to want to wall away sadness, to deny it. I challenge you to read on.

Note that the in two middle poems, the title also functions as the first line.

by Carl Adamshick

I always thought death would be like traveling
in a car, moving through the desert,
the earth a little darker than sky at the horizon,
that your life would settle like the end of a day
and you would think of everyone you ever met,
that you would be the invisible passenger,
quiet in the car, moving through the night,
forever, with the beautiful thought of home.

Sick to death of the hardpan shoulder,
By Greg Glazner

the froth of noise
the undersides of the cedars make,

the windblown dark that hints
and fails for hours at effacement—
maybe I could claim it isn’t

praying, but it’s asking,
at the least, begging
that these lungfuls of this blackness

eat whatever keeps on swelling
and collapsing in my chest, and be done
with it, no more noise

left hanging in the spaces
between brake lights than a smothered rush
that sounds like suffering

and is nothing. Instead a sobbing isn’t
so much easing from my throat
as shining like black light from my torso,

veining the leaves of weeds, stoning
the whole roadside in a halo—I can feel
the heat of truck lights on my back,

I’m inside that brilliant gravity,
I think of time, I’m in the driver’s
nightmare and it shudders by—

I Can Afford Neither the Rain
by Holly Iglesias

Nor the strip of light between the slats, the window itself blind with grief. Nor the bench where the last mourner lingers, the others on to the next thing, leaning into the bar, toasting the sweethearts, gone and gone, their passion and ire softening now into the earth. Nor the bluff above the Mississippi where centuries of war dead rest, where the stone stands bearing their names, the wind of romance hard against it.

by Ruth Stone

Putting up new curtains,
other windows intrude.
As though it is that first winter in Cambridge
when you and I had just moved in.
Now cold borscht alone in a bare kitchen.

What does it mean if I say this years later?

Listen, last night
I am on a crying jag
with my landlord, Mr. Tempesta.
I sneaked in two cats.
He screams, "No pets! No pets!"
I become my Aunt Virginia,
proud but weak in the head.
I remember Anna Magnani.
I throw a few books. I shout.
He wipes his eyes and opens his hands.
OK OK keep the dirty animals
but no nails in the walls.
We cry together.
I am so nervous, he says.

I want to dig you up and say, look,
it's like the time, remember,
when I ran into our living room naked
to get rid of that fire inspector.

See what you miss by being dead?

Do you tend to run from sad things, to avoid those who are mourning? What things have helped you through a loss?


  1. I'm sorry to hear about your daughter's kitty :( I love the last two poems.

    1. I really like the plain-speak of Stone's piece especially. It has an approachability some poems don't.

  2. So sad! losing a kitty is heartbreaking. Been through it. :(

    1. I've never had such a sick pet, which was so hard, especially because the disease is incurable.

  3. Aww...Rosie. What a sweet, beautiful cat. Hugs to you and your daughter. I'm so sorry.

    1. We think she might have been a breeder dump--we live on the edge of a vast park, and she's a rare breed called a snowshoe. We think once she tested positive for leukemia, she was dumped in the woods. I'm glad we could give her a loving home for a time.

  4. So sorry for the loss of you cat. I have faced enough sorrow in my life to know I cannot run away from it. Death is as much a part of life as birth, as much a part of life as inhaling and exhaling. We cannot do one without the other.

    1. Wise words, Bish. Sorrow is something we must go through, because if we try to go around it or away from it, it follows and haunts us.

  5. I'm so sorry to hear it, and I'm sorry for your daughter. That first poem was lovely, I feel the same way. I hope it's that satisfying, even if it's difficult for those we leave behind.

    1. Thanks. That one is so lovely, and hope-filled too.

  6. I'm so sorry for your loss, Laurel. I've never had a cat, but I can feel the pain in your words. What a beautiful poetry to cling to. I hope you guys find some peace beyond the sorrow.

    1. I've lost many cats in my lifetime. I grew up on a farm, and the barn cats often died in the most horrible ways. But this is my first experience with serious pet illness. It's especially hard because the animal can't understand it, and you can't adequately give comfort like you can to a person. That really broke my heart.

  7. Replies
    1. Thanks. I think it's hardest on my daughter, who's only ever lost a few goldfish. A cuddly pet is a much tougher loss.

  8. Poor Rosie. Thankfully you enjoyed each other and you'll all have wonderful memories. *hugs*

    1. Sadly, she so sick the whole time we had her, but such a loving snuggler. :-(

  9. So sorry to hear about your cat. It's so difficult to lose a beloved pet. I hope your daughter is doing okay.

    1. The tough thing has been to make her wait to get another. I don't want her to treat the loss of a pet like it's a broken toy. Better to take time to walk through the sadness so the new pet is loved for itself.

  10. What beautiful poems.

    I'm so sorry about your cat, but it sounds like you and your daughter were able to enjoy her while she was here. And now you'll have wonderful memories and photos to remember her by.

    1. Elegy is such a big portion of poetry, and it can be comforting in times of losses big and small.

  11. I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. Pets are a very special kind of love.

    The poems were gorgeous. There is such beauty in minimal words. Like a pin prick to a heart.

    1. Pets are a special kind of love, so true.

      I picked this batch because it gives a sense of some of the ways death and loss are approached in contemporary poetry, often with piercing succinctness.