You came to me on a hot summer day
Bones visible, hair missing, eyes faded.
You cried and I heard you.
I thought you might leave,
But you stayed.
Your hair grew, black and gold and orange.
Your wheat colored eyes, bright again,
Watching, waiting, learning.
You let me touch you when it felt safe.
You answered my calls and licked my fingers.
And thus began our conversation.
Your days were spent chasing bugs and mice and birds.
You visited the orange male across the street.
Your nights were spent on my bed
Kneading and purring.
Imitating me, imitating you.
Soon enough your belly grew
And grew and grew.
You invited me to feel them, like only I would understand.
With my hands on you I felt tiny kicks.
And you slept as I held you all.
When labor came, I think it scared you.
On my chest, in my face, you cried loudly,
As if saying, “Make it stop!”
The next morning there were three that looked like you
And two like your friend across the street.
You were such a good mother.
After a week inside you wanted out.
You searched for him, called out for him
But he was gone. They had moved.
Three days you cried for him, calling, calling.
“I am sorry,” I said.
You did your duty; your babies grew up.
They found other homes.
You were fixed and vaccinated,
Loved and spoiled.
Let in and out and in and out,
Morning, noon and night.
I knew it was not safe, you being outdoors
I tried to keep you in,
But you insisted on your freedom, demanded it.
Even after you were attacked by another cat,
Our dog, Jake, coming to your rescue.
You were Houdini incarnate, always breaking out.
Over the years I learned your particular tastes.
Leftover milk from a bowl of Frosted Flakes.
Can of tuna; never the fish, only the juice.
Melted Edy’s Caramel Delight ice cream.
Purina dry cat food, purple bag.
You kept me company on my swing while I wrote,
On my bed during Netflix binges,
And on walks around the neighborhood.
“You taking your cat for a walk?” the men would chuckle.
I swear sometimes you rolled your eyes, too.
Your silky patchwork of colors slid through my hand and calmed me.
Our daily meows and looks and nods
Took me out of my thoughts and into the present.
I could not help but laugh
When you were duped by the squirrel, again and again
Or when you had a boxing match with the foster puppy.
Foster puppy became adopted puppy and grew four times your size.
He wanted to be in your space,
To play with you too hard.
That is when you did something genius.
Your imitated my “NO,” a word he knew well.
And he listened.
It was a week after Thanksgiving
The pumpkin pie gone, the weather began to cool.
Your yearly routine of staying in all night began as well.
But instead of dozing, you meowed at one in the morning.
“Let me out,” you said.
Sleepily, I obeyed.
I found you that evening.
Your bright orange colors peeking out from the dead brown leaves
that covered your body.
Instinctively, my hands covered my face.
They were too late to shield me.
I was too late to save you.
You were gone.
Sean cleaned you
And placed you inside a pillowcase.
You were buried next to Jake,
Your one-time defender.
I have never cried so hard.
The next day, every cell in my body felt bruised.
They never tell you how much it hurts,
Or how your mind forgets what happened,
Even if for just a millisecond,
And you have to remember all over again.
Your meow woke me that second night,
My ears and brain trained by you.
But it was just an echo of your many meows in the past.
And I had to remember again.
Three stories about grief fell into my hands the next week.
And, like clockwork, I was angry.
At the dogs for killing you and at their negligent owners.
At your insistence on going outside that night.
But most of all, at myself for letting you.
So many if-onlies.
But slowly, my grief changed its color.
I survived the whole spectrum
And was left with only the
White expanse of acceptance.
What fills that expanse now are memories of you.
I still hear your echoes that wake me.
My heart still aches from your absence.
But I am grateful for our eight years together,
And all of our conversations.