The summer I lived in the farmhouse,
the pears fell and rotted on the ground
And the wasps keened over them.
the honey dripped from the old stove
Where the bees had built their wild hive.
The rainwater, gathered in buckets
From the crumbling roof, had the color of whiskey
cranes,cars, tractors rotted softly
Their upholstery filled with mice
gloveboxes filled with crumbling documents
In the tall rank prarie grass ,
brown eyed susans rough and weedy
with no cows to keep them down.
The roof of the empty pig barn sagged to the ground,
the paint peeled off the north face of the house
In the storms the house was a ship
Shifting on the beams, creaking against the wind
My landlady, the madwoman
burned my record player in an oil drum
whispered about imaginary enemies
washed her frazzled hair in the whiskey colored buckets
and kept cats.
Kept them in buckets and barrels.
Kept them in cages, missing ears and tails,
Kept them one eyed, ancient long haired and dreadlocked
Feral and wild in the barns,
chasing mice through the junkyard cars
Hunting pheasants in the neighbor’s corn,
reeking of tomcat piss and shit
Kept them, hundreds, crying, human shy
Like men who feed pigeons,
wild and untouched,
coming to eat the food
she strew the ground with
like seed to grow more cats,
hordes and throngs of nameless and unnameable cats.
As I sat on the cracked pavement beside the mossroofed shed
One hot and waterless day, one of the kittens came up, crying
Its eyes sealed shut with phlegm, a bone thin skin kite
The coyotes had come in the night again, eating the babies
And this one had escaped with a bite taken out of its side,
the muscles working like puppet stings in black gore,
the bluebottle maggots crawling through the muscle
it had one good blue eye, a calico coat and cried to me
So I took it to my room, and wrapped it in blankets
Gave it milk and tuna-water in an eyedropper
Baked a brick to keep it warm through the night, poured
Peroxide and alcohol in the open wound and petted its scabby head
And spoke to it through the night
Not wanting maggots in my sheets, I left it with the warm brick and blankets
Sleeping, mostly clean and exhausted the small lungs breathing ragged
I slept and dreamt of cats
In the morning it was cold and stiff despite, or because of, my attentions
And I buried in beside the fencepost by the brown eyed susans
Too deep for the coyotes to dig it up.