Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Doe's Sorrow

My wife and I, we had a pair of tomcats, brothers, who were obviously close. We named them Philip Berrigan Cat and Joltin Joe Frasier Cat. Orange marmalade toms, they were. Berrigan was a little shy. Frasier was out there. We had them about two years when Frasier left us. We never found out why but he never came back. Berrigan was devastated. After a while it was obvious that even if he was forgetting his brother he wasn't forgetting his grief. It changed him from a slightly shy pretty happy cat to a somber creature who was much more leary of things and far needier too. If you have been around very many cats, you will know this type. They vary around the theme of not having enough something, never enough. Berrigan was that way after he lost his brother but not before.

To indulge like that makes one less able to survive, because the deflection in one's person steals from awareness and alertness, from engagement and commitment. While my cat had room to carry long term grief in this sideways way - even having forgotten the cause but not the grief - and it turning into something plaintive and unhappy but not directly expressible, so that it leaks and spills in odd places and ways. While my cat could live like this, a wild doe cannot, and my cat, had he been feral, this complex might have killed him. This began when he was not yet four. He lived to nineteen yrs, four mos. As far as I could see, he never healed. In the end he was deaf and blind and just really really old.

The Doe’s Sorrow

When I came upon
the dead fawn my heart dissolved
in the error’s wake
and I thought then
of the doe who watched her fawn
struck down before her
broken eyes. Driven
to her knees, her dugs in pain,
her heart pain throbbing
and then she must bolt,
she must forget and go on.
This fawn never was.

September 2, 2009 12:41 PM


  1. Grief can kill, Christoper, if not literally at least in spirit as you suggest. Thank you for this sad sad poem.

  2. Beautiful and heart-rending, and terribly true, all of it.

  3. Grief work is possibly the most important healing work, the most essential. Grief itself may lie at the hidden heart of many distressed lives, unacknowledged and primary, while the manifestations are confused and deflected. People end up being treated for many things but not for the grief itself because it is too diffuse and unclear.

    In my experience grief is often too dangerous and so remains hidden in many lives. We perceive grief as too dark, too deep, too unchanging and we cannot bear it. It gives rise then to terror, to fear. We think we are afraid. We think the fear primary. It is not. We treat the fear and perhaps succeed to some extent but then it arises in some other shape, and all because it is secondary to the unfinished and frozen grief.

    Grief is closely connected to another intolerable state that may have many names. I call it bewilderment. This is the heart of my own distress, my emotional lifework. I am not fearful, I am bewildered and sad. My distress includes fear of course but fear is not first. Guilt and shame come later too. First I am bewildered and saddened. Then my fear, my guilt and shame arise. And actually there is not that much guilt. It is mostly shame. Bewilderment and sadness, and then shame that I should be bewildered and sad, and then fear that I will be discovered as shamed, bewildered and sad. And this is very ancient, I think, a preverbal complex, set down in me before language, and perhaps even before this life in some other.

    Knowing my shape took decades, and I am a better man for it, better able to navigate skillfully in the work of the heart, both mine and yours. Grief work is certainly primary for me.

  4. Yes. It is small for me, but I am a doe. I have reason to grieve, but I try to do it quietly. I'll not be that cat.

    On a brighter note, I had two cats. One, my favorite, died a couple years ago. The remaining one was always a needy and annoying thing. We had all rejected it here. It was very hard to tolerate and I was not generous in spirit. Robert can and retrained this cat to be a cat, to lose much of its skittishness, to experience this house and this family and even the outdoors, as it never had. An old cat, new tricks.:)


  5. What a cool story. Your friend Robert is a remarkable man. The rest of the story is just as interesting. That cat trained you guys too. It was Robert coming in untrained that permitted the cat to change.

    I am having the same experience with a neighbor cat. I am slowly training him to no longer be the feral spook he is, at least around me. He was named Hell Boy for good reason. I may or may not succeed. It was possible that Robert could have failed too. Cats tend to be more fully formed autonomous beings, less dependent on the pack. That is why we tribal creatures can train pack creatures like dogs - we are not so self contained and understand each other.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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