Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Just Before He Died, At Year's End

I have had old cats. My last has reached nineteen. She's fragile now but has her eyes. I swear sometimes she's deaf. I can run the vacuum cleaner right next to her. But when I play the keyboard, she will leave after a short while and I am sure that some frequency bothers her. I don't think it's my music per se, but some of the sub or overtones, perhaps beyond my hearing that bothers her in the electronics. But when I pop the catfood can, she hears that.

The last one that died, died at nineteen. I kind of doubt she's going to make it much longer. But there was Raggedy Blue. He came to us in 1985, a stray. It turned out he was a Red Birman, probably purebred, but he had a ragged ear, probably a cat claw mark. His eyes were the most intense blue. Hence Raggedy Blue, or Blue, or Rags, or Bluerags. He was his own cat. He loved children. At the last, he moved next door for the days because I was not home and they were, and they gave him heat. This was quite all right with them. Raggedy Blue was one of those cats, anybody who liked cats liked Raggedy Blue. He loved heat. When he finally failed, he was twenty three.

This poem is about Philip Berrigan Cat, who died at nineteen. He had cataracts and was blind, but he could still navigate, but near the end, he wandered off once, down the street and that same neighbor brought him back. He was in the middle of the street caterwauling. He was lost.

Just Before He Died

He was nineteen then,
Blind cloudy eyes, ragged fur,
Smelly skinny cat.

His place was an old pillow
On the shelf in my garage.

Sometimes he would wail
God awful loud like the small
Kitten he once was.

December 30, 2008 8:17 AM


In this poem I speak to the year as if she were my lover.

At Year's End

This year's journey west
Was a windy path high up
In the mountain air.

I have reached the edge
Of things, stand still here and look
Back the way I came.

I feel your tug soft
In my hair, in the essence
Of your last perfume.

December 30, 2008 9:17 AM


  1. Ah, i love cats, so needless to say i love your write up and the poem about your cat.
    so,sweet. It actually doesn't say it in the poem, probably you tucked it in between the lines, because you still loved him, (right?) at the end.

  2. Yes, Jozien, I did love that smelly scarecrow of a cat who broke my heart when he grieved his lost condition. Running on memory of the body he once had, getting around the house and right outside on memory but couldn't see anymore. He really had a bad smell because he lost the ability to clean somehow. His kidneys failing didn't help. I believe he remembered how he once was and mourned it. I know he never got over losing his brother when they were young. With all of that, of course I loved him.

  3. Poignant, and applicable to my 18 year old deaf and wobbly dog. She's happy in her own lost way.

    Pets are like their people.

  4. Robin, you mean I am lost, smelly, and whine a lot? :)

  5. kitty kats are some of the best people i know.... china cat sunflower

  6. Love your post:)

    Our old cat (Jasper) wailed at the end. He was an amazing cat. Nearly didn't live as a kitten -- he had a neurological problem of some sort and his own mother would not let him eat (he was at the local shelter) We spent the first weeks feeding him with a medicine dropper. He lived to be 19 as well. It has been a year since he died. We still see him in the corners of our eyes...

  7. Love the post. We're on a downhill slide with our old cat here. Sometimes, he sparks and I see the kitten he used to be. I think he regrets his old bones. :-(

  8. Ghost, I definitely agree with you when they are not too screwed up. But like my girl still with me, Lynn Redgrave Cat, she could never adjust to our house. We moved in 2001. She immediately commenced spraying. And now she poops wherever she wants though she will put pee in the box. So she is not one of my favorite people. It breaks my heart that she has so little in the house time, but she poops on the rug in the house.

  9. Faith,I still see Raggedy Blue like that, but Berrigan was so worn out at the end that we were both happy when I put him down. I put Rags down too, and he was barely moving, basically in coma when I did. I am one who stays and holds my cats when they are put down, which of course completely breaks my heart and I tear up if I think very far into those memories.

  10. Karen, I know that Berrigan regretted his. Lynn still is pretty spry. Where her trouble is, her stomach and intestines. She had bad worms at one time but they seem to have disappeared, but her eating and pooping are disturbed. But like all the cats I know who get this old, she sleeps almost all the time now.

  11. How they wail when they are old. I hate to see them distressed. I have a blind rabbit living here now, and he gets lost sometimes, too.

    The second poem is so different from the first. And lovely...

  12. The "pet" relationship can be quite a profound one. I am a dog person more than a cat person , but the love for these precious creatures is immeasurable.

  13. I think our old guy has become bulemic, gorging and purging in just the right place if you get up in the night!

    I'm laughing out loud at this whole conversation - pee, poop, worms, vomit -- to this we come! LOL

  14. Old One (for Jasper)

    Your eyes told me
    it was time

    Your bones showed through
    your skin with its fur
    still silky and smooth

    we tried all the medicines
    and the baby food on a spoon

    we tried water on a rag
    and held you close

    we made you beds in the
    warmest places and lied
    to ourselves to gain
    just another day

    but your eyes
    told me it was time.

    Christopher, I also hold them when it is time for them to go and as hard as it is, I have to be there.

    Hope you are okay today...

  15. Rachel, I think that is part of old age regression, because I know that the wail is a kitten's distress. Adult cats do not use that voice.

    Cherie, I like dogs too, but I don't have a life that can do them justice. They need far more of me than I can give. Cats don't need that support. Cats will join but don't have to, but dogs need an alpha or they will suffer. They need the outdoor freedom. I hate kennels for my pets, but in my life a kennel would be required.

    Karen, when you get older, what else is there to talk about?

    Faith, how did you get your old one to still have good fur? Mine always have kidney failure involved in some way and I am convinced that wrecks the quality of fur. The poem is lovely.

  16. :) Not sure how the fur stayed so nice, because Jasper also had kidney failure. Our other cat always groomed him...maybe that helped.:)

  17. If I ever have the opportunity to own a pet, it'd be a cat. I just love them :)

  18. Ferrets are great too. The best, I think can only be pets for a short time. Raccon kits. The combine the best of cats with the fact that they have little hands. Just delightful. Unfortunately they revert to feral as they hit puberty.

    I really like to play with good playful dogs and I miss the outdoor tussles with them because cats don't do that, but I did have a cat named Carl Sigmund Cat who in his mature years loved to go on walks.

    He knew he was perfectly safe in our presence, no matter whose territory he crossed. I had another cat named Godot years ago who was smarter than that.

  19. i really love cats... they capture your heart in a strange way...

    in Iran lots of cats live on streets... poor creatures...

  20. HB, Feral cats live everywhere in great numbers. There is a charity here called Alley Cat Allies who sponsor a trap-neuter-release program with feral cats. People here who neuter feral cats will clip an ear, a small diagonal cut across the top to signal they have been neutered. Cats will do well in the wild so long as you give them sufficient food. The tend to build cat colonies if the living space is large enough. This same charity is involved in cat colonies in several cities, insuring sufficient food, and keeping watch. It is far too small a charity for the problem.
    I support them


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