Unbecoming

x-ray xray of hand

 

Suddenly I find it odd that
my arms terminate in hands —
these firm and meaty pads,
the bony fingers extruded
in opposition to the outliers,

these peculiar thumbs.

Who designed these naked
anomalies, wrinkling and
weathering with the years?
Where are my clever paws, their
dexterous beauty, their
soft and ageless fur?

A word I have read
a thousand times skews
in repetition. Suddenly,
constellated letters are
strange to each other, new
and diffident neighbors unsure

if they belong together.

I want to host a potluck,
encourage them to
mingle, to
remember, to
say Oh, yes, now I recall you.
And Y, and possibly Q.

Even Q, so queer.

Otherwise, how may I speak?
having failed all
these years to learn the
immaculate language
of silence

or forgotten it.

The latter, my cats say
in their native tongue,
stillness.

Silken and sympathetic
they watch,  offer their
soft and beautiful hands to hold.
They are waiting for me to ghost
my faltering humanity, to forget

the bleakly sagging flesh the strangely
juxtaposed bone the fragmenting
byzantine brain the foolish
voluble tongue.

And open my sweetly
fanged mouth to
dawn’s damp air — profligate
with night smells —
to prick my animal ears to
life’s hushed and durable breath, to
prowl lightly this present earth

on my perfect velvet paws.

green-eyed black cat peering through long grass

 

 

Unbecoming first appeared here last summer.

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4 comments

  1. Magnificent, Cate, it took me right into all that is cat, and all that is not cat. When living with cats, it’s not always exactly clear . . . Franklin meows hello!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My best back to you and to Franklin, Leah! Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Cate, this hits a quivering nerve … I’m always fascinated by the combinations that arrive in my morning mail from wide-ranging sources. This magnificent piece joined today with William Stafford’s “The Way It Is” … together a WOW. Stafford holding a thread, you holding a cat’s paw … if I look back over my years for one constant, it’s cats … taming wild kittens one of my earliest memories … all these years adopting, rescuing, always LOVING them, always learning from them. I’ve just read your poem aloud to my elderly Calico … she sends purrs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your approval is most appreciated, but your elderly calico’s — now THAT puts me over the moon. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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