DANGEROUS TO LOVE THINGS THAT PERISH
for Louise and Morgan
Dangerous to love things that perish
but cowardly not to.
You weren’t just a cat.
You were Morgan.
as when I first saw you as a kitten
cupped in Louise’s hands
a whiff of incense
a gust of stars
someone in love had breathed out.
And we loved you.
And now you’re dead.
And there are two more people in the world
who can’t stop weeping.
Because there is no now
in the suddenness of death
and it’s colder in our hearts than it is outside
because your absence
like your body
doesn’t have a temperature anymore.
And there’s a dagger of darkness
that’s thrust through everything
as if God were an assassin
in some kind of video killing game
that put black holes to shame.
Or is it just the impersonality of life
that it seems to derive a cheap thrill
from killing the things it creates
without knowing their names?
Morgan the Cat.
A work of genius.
And you’d be a whole lot wiser than you are
not to forget it
because she was a goddess in her own rite.
She was the auroral shapeshifter
that was born a kitten
but grew up to be more than a human
because we always wished
we had more of her characteristics
than the ones we had as a superior species
and we worshipped her
and paid her the attentive kind of tribute
that was and is the natural due of her magical virtues.
And Morgan though it’s doubtful you can hear us now
where you can breathe easy out in the open
like the cool breeze you always were
among the wildflowers that look like stars
and copulate with Orion
the only cat who ever loved you back
as much as you like
without any one throwing cold water on it
because humans have learned to live like prophylactics
we want you to know somehow in some mysterious way
our species hasn’t discovered yet
how much you did to improve our innocence
by watching you live your life
as if you were born
knowing how to live
and didn’t have to work at it as we do.
You were tenderness with claws.
A female buddha with the eyes of a warrior
that were the envy of the moon.
A boddhicatva who didn’t answer to anyone
if you can forgive a bad pun
but showed us the way in
to the feline felicity of a paradise
that was as open as space to everyone.
You were the embodiment
of an affection and gentleness
that lingered like smoke in the air
above the cat’s eye flame of a candle
that God just blew out.
And the stars mourn as we do so deeply
even the darkness is panicked
that it will be turned inside out
like an absolute certainty from an absolute doubt.
There’s a blackhole in the heart of the light
that can’t be eclipsed by insight
and the reality of you in your flesh and your fur
no longer sitting by us on the floor
listening in with your eyes closed
as if even when you were sleeping
your ears were always awake
is a wound so deep
a rip in the sky so irreparable
that nothing that pours out of it by way
of tears and stars
thoughts or feelings
though blood pour from our eyes
could ever be worthy of it.
Thank-you for the love
that always fell into our laps like you.
Like an unexpected reward
for just being us.
Thank-you for teaching us
how to love you unconditionally
and knowing like a quiet healer
just when to apply your presence
like a soothing herb
to the hurts and fevers that afflicted us.
Sad and alone in the dead zone of an unanswerable room
you’d rub your tiny skull
with its walnut sized brain
against my leg
and I’d realize
that it was you not me
with my three and a half pounds of neocortical starmud
for all the lightyears I’ve been searching
that had found the philosopher’s stone
the moment you opened your eyes as a kitten
and you could work miraculous transformations
with the slightest touch of affection
or the nudge of a small wet nose.
When even God and Lucifer couldn’t move me
if they were to try and change my mood
as easily as Morgana la Fay moved Merlin
with her felicity for emotional alchemy.
So many times when all I thought I could do
to save the situation
was let go
you flowed like water around my legs.
Sometimes it takes a river
to remind the bridge
what it stands for
and keep its spirits up.
Sometimes the thread of life
passes through the eye of a needle
in the form of a cat
and the rip in the sky
where all the stars were pouring out
is patched up
with a single act of seeing
when a cat looks at you a moment
and then closes its eyes in contentment
like the new moon in the old moon’s arms.
You were Louise’s child.
You followed her around like a third eye
that could see into the future
like the front door you sat beside for aeons like a sphinx
waiting for her to come home
with the blue bag of salmon-flavoured cat treats.
I never saw you as her shadow.
You were more
a mirror with a mind of your own
that could look deeply into her spirit
and see your own reflection.
You were her affable familiar.
Her talismanic charm
against the obscenity of human lovelessness.
Her emergency exit.
Her fire alarm.
You were the whiff of smoke that woke her up.
If she were the long hard art
of learning how to be mastered by love.
You were the discipline
waiting on the other side of the door
that made her trudge to the store in the snow
to be sure you got your treats.
And when she returned
you’d study everything going on in the room
as if you were looking at it all for the first time
but the more I looked at you looking at us
the more I realized
you weren’t the student
you were a school
that compassionately exempted fools like us.
And now sweet one
what is it
that you want us to learn
from your perpetual absence?
As you once sweetened our lives
are you now trying
to sweeten death?
Are you trying to teach us how to see in the darkness?
To let go of our grief
as if that weren’t the only thing we had left to hold on to?
The silence in the house is a lot lonelier
for the lack of your whisper
to confide in
like a secret you kept to yourself
when no one else was home.
The birds and the windows keep waiting
for you to jump up at them any moment now
but it’s beginning to dawn on them you can’t anymore
and it isn’t just the rain
that’s making the glass cry.
Who’s going to stare at the plaster for hours
like Bodhidharma meditating in his cave
listening to the baby squirrels
learning to crawl through the walls
now that you’re not sitting there
tense as an archer
and as attentive as a Zen master?
You had a C-spot under your neck
close to your jugular
that could make you purr
when anyone pampered it like Cleopatra.
Now who’s going to know how
wherever you are
to make you stretch your claws out
like crescents of the moon
and make the green honey of your eyes
ripen into gold?
There’s a darkness in the heart of grief
that burns like a black fire
all these tears can’t seem to put out.
It’s a measure of the love you inspired in us
that we’d rather let the pain of missing you
consume us in the flames
some tender eccentricity of your cathood
even in the midst of trying to let life
get on with us without you
than ever let death make you a stranger to us.
You were Bast the Egyptian cat goddess among us in the flesh.
We learned to read your eyes like a Druidic Ogham
like phases of the moon as it waxed and waned.
One glance and I knew what you wanted.
You were a rose with retractible thorns
and we’d watch you for hours
wondering what you were dreaming
under your twitching eyelids.
And the tenderness that people are afraid
to expose to each other
because they haven’t learned to walk through life skinless
we showed to you
without feeling that even the slightest gesture of it
was ever wasted
or that the spirit didn’t recognize its own
whether it was embodied by a cat or a human.
you’re among the stars now
like a gust of light on the road of ghosts
like a hurricane that found rest in the eye of it own turbulence
like a cat-muse among these words
that can feel you watching them like birds
from your perch in the cosmic window
at the foot of the bed in Louise’s room.
though there’s this black hole
your absence has left in the middle of everything
it’s not an exit.
It’s an entrance.
It’s the way you taught us
how to diminish the darkness
by growing bigger eyes
to get the most light out of it
even when we think
as we do now
that there’s nothing left
in this starless night
that could shine.
That the winds of time
have swept the last of the blossoms away
like phases of the moon
and even our tears
are the one-way tides
of the heart-numbing farewells
the whole of our lives seem.
Did we have the dream
or did the dream have us
or is it only the nightmares
that wake up screaming out in their sleep somewhere
where the pillows are wet
and the mothers come running
to reassure them
that what they thought they saw in the dark
was not real?
It was just another human
summoning some lost joy from the past
like the ghost of a watershed
that keeps recalling things
as if it were alone at night in a dark museum.
But an abyss isn’t just an abyss.
It’s also a fountain.
Everything reveals its emptiness
in the fullness of life
like the depth of the valley
is revealed by the height of the mountain.
The sweet brief life of the blossom
is the bright vacancy
rooted in the dark abundance
of the indelibility of the way we change.
To be here once
should be enough
to prove to anyone
that they’ve been here forever.
Life leaves signs
that anyone can follow back to themselves
like leaves on the mindstreams of their flowing.
They had to let go of the tree like maps
to know which way they’re going.
It’s the same with humans and cats.
Life breathes on the ashes of the starstreams
and everything starts glowing
like the eyes of a cat in the dark.
it hurts not to see you
mesmerized by the turning water in the toilet-bowl
or sleeping in the bottom of the tub
or the end of my bed
or across the top of the easy chair
like a strategic adornment
keeping one ear open
to everything that was going on around you?
It hurts to wonder
what Louise is going to use for an alarm clock now
that you’re not there
to lick her eyelids awake in the morning
and where are the candles
where are the plants
that could ever take your place in the windowsill
watching for her to come home
as if you were one of the streetlamps?
Sometimes it’s hard to know
which hurts worse.
Never to have known love
or realize at times like this
how vast and excruciating the abyss is
how sad and foregone
the sad effusions of sorrow
the begrudging smiles of acceptance
that feel like the scars of an assassin
who doesn’t know who to get even with
when even the least atom of something we’ve truly loved
like the cosmic beginning of everything
in large and small
in the petty and profound alike
in the mystical and the earthbound
in what is different and what is not
in the star and the candle and the phoenix and the firefly
in Louise and her cat
you’ve left a hole in the light
as big as the universe
and all the stars are pouring out of it
as if the light could cry
for the passing of your radiance
no more than the pupil of an eye
blocks the light from getting in
does the hurt of your death
qualify the dangerous rapture
of having loved you in this life
as well as we knew how to love anything.
We’re all on the same journey
though sometimes we change bodies
like forms and shoes along the way
or walk barefoot awhile on stars
along the Road of Ghosts
talking to shoeless angels
about how mysterious it is
that every step of the way
where we come from
is where we’re going
and it’s not the destination
but the journey itself
that enshrines what is most sacred about life.
Not the arrival.
Not the fulfillment.
Not the completion.
Not the consummation that exhausts us wholly
and leaves us beseeching heaven
or pleading with emptiness
for a clarification of death
like the air we breathe out
leaves us longing for breath.
Our beginnings go on forever without end
and Morgan like you
if we wind up chasing our tails around
it’s only because of the great delight we take
in knowing nothing’s ever over
and everything is looping
like a snake with its tail in its mouth
or the horizontal eight of eternity
that keeps falling over
like a Bodhidarma doll
and righting itself like spectacles
worn by someone lying down
whose eyes go vertical
whenever they’re dreaming.
It’s not the farewell of the guest
but the welcome of the host
that we treasure most.
It’s not the finding
but the seeking
that’s the jewel of our quest.
That’s why you stuck your nose into everything
and learned to see with your ears
and hear with your eyes
the wings of the stars and fireflies
that hovered just outside your window
when what was always wild about you
answered the Zen savagery of the night
like an austere summons to life.
Morgan you’re gone
but there’s no imperative
in why you had to go.
No harsh god.
No assassin cloaked in light.
No doors close
our senses and our hearts
to the earthly delights of loving you.
No gates open
like a cats’ eyes
that will not see us return like insight
to the faces of the living creatures
we live to behold in our own features
and touch most gently.