National Poetry Month

It is National Poetry Month – for the occasion, I wrote this poem. It isn’t very good – it doesn’t even rhyme. But it’s mine.

OLD-FASHIONED

I once lived in Paris

In an apartment with four other girls and four thousand cockroaches

My mother sent me letters about getting married

And books about getting married

And – in her tiny, precise script – advice about getting married

Advice hard come by; decades of marriage and few flowers behind her

 

She sent me articles about things that would kill me:

Date rape drugs

And certain vegetables

And taking strangers’ suitcases across borders

And unpasteurized cheese, of which I ate beaucoup with butter and baguette

Fears saved up from a lifetime of hurt, only occasionally dulled by her beloved Old Fashioneds

 

I was dating, if you could call it that

And studying French poetry and such

At the Sorbonne

I read about roses and profiting from my youth

Allons voir si la rose and cueilliez vostre Jeunesse

A sort of French, Gather ye rosebuds while ye may

 

Until a man who looked like the lead singer from A-ha

Fell in love with me and bought me roses

We saw ‘Goodfellas’ together

I laughed at the lowlifes

He was horrified by my laughter

He loved me so much I was sure I would shrivel right up

 

I sometimes look at his Facebook page

Half dreading I will see

“I’m so glad that girl wouldn’t marry me”

But I never do

I just see his big, splashy paintings, violet and red streaks like petals

And still the lead singer from A-ha, crinkle-eyed and bearded now

 

I became a journalist and wrote articles

about a German Shepherd who raised tiny baby kittens as her own

and about women over 40 getting pregnant at the sperm bank

gathering their rosebuds in a panic

which is something a friend of mine did and something I never contemplated

As I am old-fashioned

The Inner Life of Cats

Readers of this blog, or anyone who knows me, won’t be surprised that I am recommending a book called “The Inner Life of Cats.” It was written by Thomas McNamee and if you are an animal lover or a friend to the felines, you will enjoy it. I particularly appreciated that the author, like me, seems enamoured of Rome and her various cat colonies. (Some links here to my photographs of Rome’s cats, as well as other cats.)

But what I loved most about — or perhaps needed from — the book was McNamee’s opening up about the grief he felt when his beloved cat, Augusta, died. I sobbed reading some of it. Those of you who followed my old website might remember when my senior cats died (within six months of each other). What I appreciated about McNamee’s writing is that he was able to express what the loss did to him in a way I never could. I wrote a sort of detached piece here about trying to scatter Orloff’s and Pushkin’s ashes – I made sure it was written in a way that was almost a travelogue, with little snippets of humour, because I feared the waterfall of tears that would ensue if I were honest about the depths of my grief. (I still have their ashes, fyi.)

This passage from McNamee’s book reflects far more accurately my experience:

It will tear a hole in your life. Her love was unconditional. When you stayed away too long, she didn’t sulk when you came home, she welcomed you with gladness. She was so innocent. So naive. No human being ever loved you with the purity of her love. Did you tell her things you never told anyone else? Did she purr just because you were there — because you existed? His stuff is going to be all over your house. What are you going to do with his bed? His toys? You’re going to listen and listen for the bup-bup-bup of his paws on the floor as he comes trotting to greet you, and you won’t hear it. You’re not going to be able to sleep. You’re going to eat too much, or not enough. You’re going to  wonder if there’s something wrong with you. A lot of people stay home just so they won’t have to hear people say, “Come on, it was only a cat.” Somebody’s going to tell you to get a kitten, and you’re going to think, No! No kitten could possibly replace her.

Oh Lord, how I remember the silly people who said that to me — it was only a cat. What idiots. Why didn’t I just tell them to f**k off?

This next passage also rings true:

Augusta’s death paralyzed me for two months at least, and I’m not ashamed of that. Excessiveness is in the eye of the judge, and in this matter only I can judge. I did find myself defending myself sometimes, sometimes against myself, more often against someone mystified, whose mystification as time passed shaded into annoyance, or just distance. You are as alone as you have ever been. You hoard your grief. You stay home. Friends ask you out to dinner, you find a lie for declining. Work? You can’t focus on anything, except this one thing. In the loss is the life you shared, Wiman says. Now you’re supposed to see the joy and the light in it, somehow to be in that life. How is that supposed to be possible? The fucking cat is dead.

And this – the hours of guilt I have experienced thinking about Orloff and Pushkin, the times I wasn’t patient with them, the times I left them with sitters, and above all, their deaths — did I wait too long? Did I not give them enough time – did they still want to live in spite of their illness or pain?:

“I could have loved you better,” I sang the Tom Paxton song back through time to Augusta. “Didn’t mean to be unkind/You know it was the last thing on my mind.” Maybe not the last thing, but bad enough. I wasn’t paying attention, Augusta. How did you feel when we went away? I didn’t even think. You were glad to see us when we returned, which was enough to fool ourselves into believing it must have been all right. You were only a cat. We didn’t mean to be unkind. She loved us anyway. What choice did she have? Who else was she going to love? Augusta had love inborn. She had to do something with it.

McNamee and his wife did eventually get another cat. I have yet to do so. I tell people that it is because we travel so much, et cetera, but in reality, I don’t know that I want to feel that kind of love — and therefore the inevitable loss that will follow down the line — again. Oh, I imagine that one day there will be another cat in my life, in my heart, but for now, I am sticking to working with the street ferals in Toronto and enjoying books about cats. So glad I found “The Inner Life of Cats.”

Good Friday

Piero della Francesca’s restored ‘Resurrection’ is ready for public consumption, to our great benefit and in time for Easter.

The fresco described by Giorgio Vasari, the father of modern art history, as the Renaissance pioneer’s “most beautiful” artwork and hailed by British novelist Aldous Huxley in 1925 in the essay “The most beautiful painting in the world”, is a symbol of Sansepolcro. Indeed gunnery officer Anthony Clarke in 1944 famously decided at the last minute not to bombard the town because he remembered about the masterpiece he would otherwise have risked destroying.
The long restoration work was carried out by Florence’s Opificio delle Pietre Dure, one of Italy’s most well-known restoration laboratories, and the art superintendency of Arezzo and Siena, with a 100,000 euro donation from Buitoni manager Aldo Osti.

This is worth another trip to Italy.

Montmartre Cemetery

See below a kitty at Paris’ Montmartre Cemetery. Photo taken by me about a month ago. I loved how kitty just needed a sip and found some water (it had been raining a fair bit) that had collected in someone’s grave. Cats gotta cat. I took many more photos of the colony at the cemetery, which I will post later — have already posted some at my National Geographic page. (Regular readers of this blog will remember the cats of Rome’s Protestant Cemetery here, here and here.)
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