On Cats & Despair

Carol responded to the cat on the birthday card I sent her with a long meditation on her cat Infinity.  I’ve edited it down for length.  She also included a handwritten note to which I responded with a poem.


Your friend on the cover of the card is just like a cat I had once named Infinity.  I had her for the entire three years I was in Minneapolis and she was the smartest cat I ever knew.  All my various housemates always had a lot of cat and none of them survived.  They were lost to the frozen city–either ran away, were kidnapped.  One of them Infinity took a dislike to and took it for a stroll one day; you can guess who came back and who didn’t.  I always left my window open no matter how cold or dangerous (actually it was open only so far) so she could come and go as she wanted.  We co-existed.  Neither one of us was given to these affection embraces, cuddling, smooching or petting that cats and caretakers are given to doing with each other.  It was a most unique relationship.  We both demanded our freedom and distance, but both needed each other.  She, for me to feed her and me for her company, as quiet and aloof as it was.  This cat reminds me of two things she used to do.  One is that whenever someone brought a new cat into the house, Infinity would go through her act of “you don’t love me any more” and would promptly go out in the middle of the street (fortunately not a very busy one) and lie down and wait for cars to run over her.  She’d wait until they got right up to her ears and then rush away–not back to the house through the window, but up to the nearest stranger and this was the look she gave strangers: no one loves me; want to take me home?   The other shit, she never would have gone with them (they tried sometimes).  The other thing is that she’d go, in summer, and lie in the middle of the neighbor’s garden.  They had flowers…some beautiful, beautiful exotic, some beautiful, just ordinary.  Infinity would lie right on top of them, immerse herself in the scent, and then, in anticipation of some wonderful juicy game flitting by like butterflies or crickets or even just bumblebees (her favorite, even though they used to sting her in the mouth when she caught them) she’d honestly, sincerely believe she was invisible–that nothing was aware of this pure black cat in the middle of a garden of pastel colors.  Well naturally, when I took her to the farm and she discovered the exotic aroma of my father’s greenhouse, she promptly refused to come to New York.  Itwasn’t anything she said or did, it was simply a look in her eyes  that very plainly stated that unless we were on our way  to a tropical flower jungle she was not coming along.  She has since taken up residence underneath the night-blooming cereus, the most exotic, potent flower in the greenhouse, and is probably snoozing right this minute in anticipation, dreaming of when the greenhouse doors will open in the spring and she can go out about the business of bee-catching….
Well, this is a long way around to say I like your car.  Thanks for the inspiration–

[I never met Infinity, but some years later I bought a black Burmese for Carol, which she named Sappho, who lived with us for some twenty years.  What I recall about that cat is that she would hide and refused to show herself for some days after we returned from a trip
In the same envelope, Carol sent this note:



To which I responded with this poem:

You ask
if ever I wrestle with despair
and I suppose you mean
(in my egocentricity and utter lack
of seemly humility)
do I ever despair of holding you in my arms,
of tasting the sweetness of your tongue,
of melting your flesh into mine,
of feeling the brush of your hair on my skin,
of stroking your soft places, and your
strong places,
of lying sweetly by your side,
(in whatever nameless place,
at whatever timeless time),
and yes,
I do despair,
but I know that
I need you,

Click on the Covers for Steve and Carol’s Books



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