by Beth Mills
He had lived wild,
Eating what she gave him,
Sleeping in beds she made,
Tattered cushions, plastic canopies,
     afghans, worn and frayed.
Now he lay on a towel
     on the kitchen floor,
Light as air,
A dry old cat
With a death’s grin,
His chest barely rising.

She lay beside him,
With her fine-boned face,
     and silver hair,
Head turned, hand outstretched,
So that the curled paw
Could wrap around
     her finger.

Spoke to him in a thick
Her lips dry,
As if she hadn’t used them for days,
For years,
Or at least since her husband died,
And she stood in the street
     each morning,
Smoking a cigarette,
Waving, as his car moved slowly away.

So this was the cat,
Who had lived not with, but near,
And had finally come inside,
     to die.

After awhile, they lay there.
After awhile the bony chest
The eyes went blank,
And fleas, by the dozens, fled
     in all directions.

She did not cry out,
But rose, and wrapped him,
Carried him,
Went down on her knees in the garden,
To dig a grave,
With her bent and crooked hands.

Beth Mills has been a poet all her life. Her grandmother
wrote poetry in Yiddish and published many poems in the
Yiddish Daily Forward. Her father read poetry to her from the
time she could listen, and she carried her love for words into
her elementary school classroom, helping children discover
the poems inside them. She has had essays published in
Educational Leadership and Orbit 60, and recently, poems in
Mothers Always Write and Keeping Chickens Magazine.
Chickens make excellent fodder for poetry!