Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Beige gloves, and turquoise scrubs, she carries a generic spray bottle marked with a Sharpie: rubbing alcohol. The syringe contains an inch and a half of gem tone blue-green liquid. We are told there is a vein on the inside of the back leg she can sometimes find without shaving. No more than five pounds, the cat is easily pushed on her side.

A Persian cat’s fur is fine—so fine that it easily mats, the tangles cinching the skin tighter and tighter as it grows. In desperation, a few months ago we had her shaved, keeping the fur long around her face and feet and tail—the look of a lion.

The vet sprays a stream of rubbing alcohol down the inside of her leg. The cream point fluff that remains on her leg is immediately transparent, the purplely vein clearly visible. A rusty red towel had been given us to lay her on while we wait. Notably used, faded. Down on his haunches, my husband’s trying to get Puddin’ to look at him; he makes a little sound in the back of his throat that she used to answer. Once again standing over her, he bends closer and gathers her into his hands. He puts his face down into the mane. Inhales deeply. Two, three times.

Sorrow can be looked straight in the face only for small moments. He turns steps over by the sink. Looks at the paper towel holder, the way he would read and re-read a cereal box in the morning. Eager for a distraction he puzzles over a white piece of plastic on top of the apparatus, then reaches up and touches it. The whole front of the machine flops open, revealing the twisted and complex inner-workings of something as simple as drying your hands.

We laugh.

Then the door opens. The vet is kind, kindness looking like slow movements and the sort of smile where lips cover the teeth with the downward turn of resignation that will wait or continue— whatever we need. She says it’s an anesthetic, just a little first to take the anxiety and then an overdose. Sleep. Then sleep redefined.

Within a second or two Puddin’ tips her head sideways as if she suddenly needs to lay it down.

No one really knows when life stops,

how death can happen with eyes open. We both try to pet them closed.

That I had scissors in the purse I call My Abyss, was surprising and not. We clip fluff from the top of her head and off the end of her tail. A beginning and end I’ve left it on the dresser wrapped in a tissue. What do you do with the remnants, the thirty seven pictures I took three hours ago. Tomorrow. Two years from now.

Mercy and killing, I’m not sure how to put those words in the same sentence without trembling. One person insists it’s severe grace. Another, mere convenience.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Soweto Slum

Soweto Slum in Nairobi Kenya.

Some noted differences: American poverty involves more stuff, albeit perhaps, broken, useless, cheap trappings. Litter of old sofas, hulks of defunct cars, not so much garbage, no open sewers. Soweto is not cluttered with the discarded. Garbage and sewage excepting.

Three closets the size of home. We poke our paleness inside--an acceptable variety of voyeurism to Kenyans, even the poorest Kenyans value relationship. We are asked to sit in a windowless room the size of a closet. I hope that is what I am doing, the relationship thing. How is this different from staring?

The boys below haven't noticed us. Sliding down the steep incline on their butts employs certain survival instincts that they will abandon to chase after us calling , HOW ARE YOU HOW ARE YOU HOW ARE YOU HOW ARE YOU?, tortuous choruses like bird-chatter. The question follows us like shadow.
A little market.

Round and red and familiar as the flies that cover everything: hunger. Our gifts were bread and Bibles...

...for the ubiquitous thirst.

Wash the laundry, cleanse the soul. Very clean clothes...

dry in the stench. Certain people collect buckets of raw sewage from each family as a kind of employment. Dump it in this river. Clean redefined.

Faith sits down for the day. Thumb and first finger press on the tear ducts.

Universally prayed by the women (AIDs widows): job, work, employment. The children that have followed us stand at the doorway watching, waiting for us to stand before the throng again begins the chant, the unanswerable pester, HOWAREYOUHOWAREYOUHOWAREYOU?

Play happens anyway.

See that sign--MERCY OF GOD COMPANY--stuck in a brook of raw sewage?
Mercy me.

Please come in...

...to where giving everything will only be a drop in the sea.
Never enough to do anything but hope on this day bread and a Bible are a good thing.