Annie as a kitten and almost 19 years later. Seems impossible. The second two photos are of the day the kittens arrived and I found Kukla on the wall in a standoff with Annie, whose meal they were eating! Fiesty little thing. (Photos will enlarge if you click on them.)
Two A.M. and four A.M., six A.M. and eight.
My nineteen-year-old cat is such a reprobate.
She awakens me with yowling to be fed again
or simply for a rubbing over ears and under chin.
My night’s full of awakenings, my days are somewhat muddled.
I try to block the sound of her. I’m bleary and befuddled.
I’m sleep-deprived, exhausted, and yet she is so old,
how can I consign her to the night air and the cold?
I awake at 5 a.m. with no bleats for attention—
that every-other-hour irritating cause of tension.
And yet what mixed emotions this five-hour rest has brought.
Finally, a full-night’s sleep, but Annie I have not!
I knock upon the closet doors, follow every lead.
I mix up her favorite cat foods, but she does not heed
all these invitations—the water and the calls—
the peering under beds, searching the bathrooms and the halls.
I look behind each open door, behind the stereo—
so many hidden spaces where a cat can go.
The old cat’s turned up missing? It’s an oxymoron that
nonetheless is true when applied to my gray cat.
You may find it silly, putting up with such a cat
once so wild and kittenish, so active and so fat.
An outside cat who never deigned to come inside,
Annie chose walls and bushes as places to abide.
Every year she grew more wild and more free,
making an appearance on demand for only me.
Twice a day for meals, she would jump up on the wall
In between, she vanished—not visible at all.
Two years ago, four kittens abandoned at my door
meant that she just left for good, and I saw her no more.
One month later, she returned, hip shattered, skin and bone.
with stomach and liver problems, she was Annie’s ruined clone.
When the vet said nothing could be done, she came to live inside.
I thought, to make her comfortable there until she died,
but two years later, she rules the house and she won’t abide
any other lesser cat to be found inside.
She eats small portions all day long and though she’s lean and spare,
it seems she’s come into her own in my cozy lair.
The problem is, I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since then.
For all the constant roarings that disturb the old cat’s den.
If it isn’t food she wants, it seems it is a rub,
or for me to clean her litterbox that’s found inside my tub
that I haven’t used for the two years she’s been here.
I use the guest room shower in lieu of one that’s near.
Sure that she’s died in some dark corner that I cannot see,
I move aside the furniture. I peer on bended knee
beneath the beds. I search each room with a fine-toothed-comb,
but no evidence of her is left within my home.
I’ve thought so often how much easier that it would be
if she would slip away one night and leave her master free.
What a lovely gift it would be for her to give me,
for often I have thought that probably she would outlive me!
The house seems oddly empty. By her water dish, her meal
left uneaten these long hours has started to congeal.
Her gray hairs left upon the rug where she liked to sleep.
Although I’ve loved her absence, it’s true that now I weep.
When the other cats give voice and I decide to heed them,
I get an extra surprise as I go outside to feed them.
When I open up the door, Annie scoots right in,
dashing from the overgrown foliage where she’s been.
Thus ends her great adventure and ends my great travail.
As I sit here writing, I can hear her latest wail.
I guess we’re back to where we were. Annie’s on my lap,
and as long as she is quiet, guess I’ll take a little nap.