(Poem on the Death of Elvis the Cat)
Elvis won't eat. He's twenty years old. Mostly he sleeps,
staggers off to the litter box, drags himself back - - -
fur like a thrift-store suit, rumpled, bagged at the knees.
You've been avoiding the trip to the vet - - - the news will be bad.
"For Christ's sake," your wife says on the third day.
"I can't stand it." So you grab an old sweater, wrap up
the shivering cat, put sweater and cat in a cardboard box.
He hates the car, still has enough chi left to yowl the whole way - - -
he knows where he's going, knows he's not coming back.
The office is bright, toxic with Lysol, sharp funk of animal fear.
You hold the box on your lap. Elvis papoosed in your sweater,
panting, eyes dull. Whatever love is, it's not what you feel
for this cat - - - sprayer, shredder of chairs, backhanded gift
from a breakup - - - your ex moved in with her girlfriend,
no pets allowed. Two seats down a woman shushes
her mutt: it yaps at the end of its leash. Then it's your turn.
"Good night, old boy," the vet says. The needle slips in.
Elvis sighs, his flat skull in your hand. He purrs for a second
or two and then stops. You can't love what you don't love;
you try to be kind. But the sweater is Brooks Brothers,
cashmere. You've had it since grad school - - - it's black
and still fits. Not really thinking, you lift the dead cat,
unwrap the sweater, lay the lank purse of bones
back in its box. You leave him there at the vet's - - -
no little backyard service for you. You drive home.
Your wife says, "That's it?" and you nod.
There's not much that keeps you awake anymore:
the future all rumor and smoke, a bus that never comes
until it comes - - - the past already published, out of your hands.
So what do you do with it, then? Shoved into the closet,
moth-reamed, way in the back. Crouched in its dark corner:
the thing that still fits. The thing you can't throw away.--- Jon Loomis
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