from " Haruspicating on Valley --View Farm
SACRIFICE OF A GUNNYSACK OF CATS
The quick small bubbles popping the gunnysack,
Hooked by a pitchfork braced in the cattle tank,
Almost unhinged my heart and made me drop
The stick with which I forced the young cats down.
A population explosion, that's what it was.
With twelve mother cats and a year of visiting toms
We met September with the wildest host
Of squinting eyes behind our milking cows.
We divied them up among the brothers and sisters,
And each had only six. But since we were nine
My father thought things were getting out of hand.
Next day I received my melancholy orders.
"You'll have to catch the most of them and drown them.
Just tidy up the place and make it normal.
Fifty-four cats! Why, that's an infernal nuisance.
Think what would happen next year!" What could I tell him?
So there I was dashing with my gunnysack
Into the bins and under the stalls and mangers.
The wild ones scratched me, but I thrust them in.
The tame ones? Oh, I brushed them with my cheek,
Sighed, and kissed them, then I thrust them in.
I climbed the ladders to the highest mows,
Ran through the orchard under the heavy apples
And crept among the tall weeds by the granary,
Until I thought I could not bear that cross.
I dropped it once; that made it twice as hard
To lure them once again into that womb
And bear it backward to the spermal waters.
But there I was: filthy, bleeding, and sick,
Tired and thirsty, my cord pulled at its neck,
The undulating coffin on my wagon,
Trudging down to the sea, my cross upon me.
The thorny dissonance of dying song
Over the squealing of the wagon wheels
Ran up a cloud of dust that nearly drowned me.
It is one thing to think, and one to do.
I wanted to avoid the thinking in the doing
And, quick, be done with it and off to play.
But you can see this didn't work too well ...
Thirty-three years to get that cord untied.
I stood in the dust manure at my feet,
The green scum in the corners of the tank
Eyeing my smothering conscience toward a size
My body could not hold. Good God, I seized
That squirming sepulchre, that crying tomb,
That leaping heart familiar as myself,
And heaved it from my homemade hearse and plunged
It back to evolution. Hooking the fork,
I ticked five awful minutes by the hours,
Damned by the furious bubbles where they broke
Among my unwashed hands. And then I went
Up to the barn to find my mother cat.
We sat in a beam of sunlight on the floor
Petting and purring, while out of a knothole eye
Hung in the roof of God the motes of dust
Sang of our comforts and our curious loves.