Pig Duroc and Cat Ginger wade in water dark as tea.
It is ankle deep in this part of old Washington DC
‘It is low tide now, but dampish,’ the cat gingerly explains.
‘Especially now we are suffering from unending monsoon rains.
Clove your hooves and clog dance. That churns up baby squid.
They’re an easy catch. I’ll show you.’ Cat Ginger purred and did.
Pig Duroc did a pirouette, then a header, pranged a bream.
He ate fresh fish and chortled. ‘Without humans life’s a dream!’
This bird’s Chapter One has ended.
Fake epic, abbreviated,
bird’s body in the unkempt grass.
Mallard tries to stare me down.
He wins. I win. We draw.
Across the canal, grey cat watches red.
A mower’s motor irritates.
The flowing water’s shades of green
float first fall leaves past us,
mallards, cats duck, me,
and the body of the bird.
The first boat has a rusted rudder.
The second has new, blue covers.
The coot that is silent
swims towards me, and dives.
She surfaces, eating weed.
To whom was this merle’s epic real?
Warmth and mites address the corpse:
its feathers, skin and song.
A mallard splurges wake.
Birds so loud they hurt my ears
contest the chestnut’s branches.
The sander quiets us all,
doing honest maintenance work.
Four more mallards paddle by.
The dead merle’s feathers stay still
while wind ruffles the red cat
as it stares down a floating feather.
What can be stayed, after execution?
I watch the red cat watching water.
Tall weeds dip purple flowers.
Shadows lengthen long enough
to cover more than the merle.
Cat purred, ‘the log of minus one.’ ‘That’s undefined!’
the jackdaw yelled. He flew down, cawing foul.
He darted off before the cat’s claws fined
his rudeness. See the cat rear up and yowl
that the bird is absurd to think she speaks of math.
‘If I add that the log of zero is a limb
of Satan, then you are on a slippery path
of soggy rhythms leading to a swim
in waters dark as the proverbial Styx,’
the cat adds. See the jackdaw, unimpressed.
‘Next,’ he tells the cat, ‘you’ll claim to fix
the log of positive one at what’s professed
to be itself one, into some dumb allusion
you will make to mask your massive math confusion.
I watch my cat try consciousness then conscience.
He discards the latter before it does him harm,
but he limps, less limbic than when our attendance
had been mandated by the witch’s charm.
The wizened wizard laughs at my alarm.
He and his malwife burnish brightwork plates
of steel they lay upon me, magic weights
that hold me fast. I am under their control.
‘We will weigh him, kill him, weigh while life abates,
and then know, by subtraction, what the soul
amounted to, how much it weighed in grams,’
his malwife cackles. I am sure they’re mad.
We had come here thinking we’d unmask their scams,
but their spells had lamed my cat, and now they had
me and my soul strapped to its launching pad.
My shambling cat comes nearer to me, purrs.
The witch proffers a mouse. The cat demurs
and his mind meets mine. He says, ‘Your soul’s a function
of their imagination, and of yours.
So do not worry. Don’t ask them for unction.’
‘All right,’ I say. ‘We’ve watched galaxies unfold.
The beauty of forever’s overrated
and youth is only valued by the old
because they’ve lost it somewhere while they waited.’
The cat pretends my soul is reinstated.
It swings a lightning paw. Claws kill the witch.
My weights take wing and the ignition switch
the wizard presses backfires. Blowback fries
him where he stands — or stood. We’ll go our way,
my cat and me, and live as if we’re rich.
‘I am old,’ said Pig Duroc. ‘I missed the last bus.
and I had to walk toting this carp.’
‘You’re myopic as well,’ said Cat Slynog, then shied
from the pig, and played Bach on a harp.
The music they made as they harped and they carped
seemed to pigeons that flew by great grief.
Then the carp joined in; all three flatted and sharped
till the end of the day, and this brief.