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2003-08-18

Louise Mackie (b. A Cat)
B. 1985 Greater Boston / D. 7.18.03 Brooklyn
Post-Surgical Complications

All at once, baseball bores me. Some blackout-borne phantom compounded of donkey and drunk stumbled over the cord last weekend, leaving my interest unplugged. The mid-summer night’s dream is fled. I’m left rooting, again, through my photographs, but I can’t find any more of Louise. I’ve found only two. I gave all the rest away: Oh give me that, they would say, and I’m comply, handing it over. But I never photographed her anyway when she’d yawn and quick I’d sneak my finger in sideways like a pencil to surprise an aggravated little chomp chomp out of her. She didn’t mind. Her pewter-colored fur reflecting the purple of that rayon shirt I wore to shreds—I could have photographed that the first time I noticed it, sitting out on the back deck in Somerville in the after-work sun with Louise in my lap. A series of shots. Sudden alarm: she was as if steeped in magenta dye. Blaming the landlord: my face suffused with first beer vigor. Perceiving the reflection happening: Louise, blissful in sunshine and my attention, the gray peacock-twittering (James Joyce) pelt of her hot to the touch. It happened so often thereafter I took it for granted.
Why do I always try to make one piece of Kleenex last so long?
What am I saying, I didn’t even own a camera then (stolen 1983)—nor when she was little and lay on the pillow behind me, sucking my hair. Now they probably discourage this; back then, who knew? The stretched expanses and holes she nursed in my sweaters; the purple Benetton one we actually called Louise’s Nursing Sweater: in fact it was a habit she outgrew.
Was it my failure to get air conditioning that really killed her? Will I live with this for the rest of my life?
Her long gray reach through the bars of her cage at the Animal Rescue League where I’d gone to get a tiny kitten. She was in one of the cages at the front, that greet you. With challenge in her eyes she implored me and after that the babies bored me. She reached on to me, especially, and I took her home to the name I’d already chosen—Louise (after Brooks). Maybe ten years later something I read or heard in passing caused me to realize, she’d been on death row.
And what a copycat. A year after Max, to the day, the death.
Louise! When I told my Russian landlady I had “cat” (meaning Nina who survives, not you); and in June, when I told my friend Kate that you had always been kind of an asshole; and when I stormed and chased you from your vomit in July; and when I almost gave you away to my parents for Christmas in 1995, but was dissuaded by your calm and finally consoling stare: three times three times thousands I betrayed you.
For the sweetness with which I ofen failed to lace my greetings when you’d join me on the bed (Almost two whole minutes ALONE!), did your sweet nature compensate us both?
But the worst was one morning of your last week, a sunny one, already hot, when you got up on the bed as you hadn’t done for days, or hadn’t wanted to. I was awake but didn’t want to be. I lay with my back turned to the place where you stood, briefly; I didn’t turn around or speak your name and you jumped to the floor. You never got up there again. I’m sorry.
I sit here all the time now.

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