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All we have lost is brightly lost.

Poetry Features

Do Unto Others at Best American Poetry

Institution Mix Tape with Woodie Guthrie at Massachusetts Cultural Council

In the Absence of Sparrows at Academy of American Poets

Barrow Street Summer 2006 Issue


There, then not. A late summer whiff
of something gone. It depended on the wind.
I checked the trash, after Ebele asked—
no maggots, no rancid fat globbing
the bin’s lid—hunted through bushes, bellied
under the latticed front porch. Tuesday,
Wednesday: 85, 90 degrees. The stink massive.
A squirrel, a raccoon? Too rank to be 
a chickadee wind-swept from its nest.
My panic grew. Now, I think I know why.
I waded into shoulder-high hydrangeas,
greened with blooms, parted the branches—a blue
plastic bag, beer bottle cap, a skull-shaped
rock. Then I saw it—a patch of white,
matted there, sticks piercing the spongy form.
I covered my mouth & nose, retreated
to the bulkhead for leather gloves, a bandana,
& a small coal shovel. As I worked, I made out
hind legs, splayed, the orange & white
marbled fur—carrion beetles writhed, quaking,
once more, the belly of my neighbor’s cat.  
What do I do with the body? I asked Ebele.
This was the cat that leapt from a tree
onto the roof of the red Colonial on Delano
& survived for weeks, eluding firemen
who telescoped their ladder out, this the cat,
while I sat at my desk each morning to write,
that padded down the front steps
of my elderly neighbor’s house, jumped the chainlink
& crossed the boulevard, stepping
between magnolias. Your calico cat, I fear,
has died in my hydrangea bush, I started the letter
to my bed-ridden neighbor. Though we needed
to get rid of the body, though the heat thickened
& soured, I spent hours laying down
my words, striking, double-striking them,
starting, again. This, I needed to get right.