Clade Song Banner

Clade Song 13

Elegy for an Insane Devotion
            - after Gerald Stern

You can choose to bring the wilderness inside.

The flat-faced cat with her tusks, her crazed orange
and white fur, the way she held my arm and licked
my hand, sometimes running one smooth tooth

along my thumb. I dreamt last night of kelpies
slowly revolving in a river that doesn’t live in this
world, watched them as I ate cheese and wondered

at the conversations whirling around me, galaxies
with dense centers and arcing arms, always poised
just before an embrace, and I woke thinking of her,

that creature I loved who died, who I shared a decade
with, a quarter of my life, though that proportion grows
smaller each passing day, and I would be lying

if I believed I always took the lesson she taught me:
to not fail to look, to look carefully, to wait for whatever
gleaming sashays into the frame. Not a lesson unlearned,

merely one I need her to call myself back to the work
of awe: the row of ibises perched on the streetlamp,
the salt air billowing through rolled-down windows driving

a causeway lined in teal ocean, the feeling of cartilage
bursting beneath my knuckles, a thumb running along
my thigh, the low light against a glass of wine as I wait

endlessly, for trick-or-treaters, or my lover, or a friend,
or for the cat to finally come home. She is buried now,
though I still think often of disinterring her, as the grave

feels much like a denial of what we were to one another:
animals that spoke no common tongue, and yet loved
across the vastness of ancestry, parting our pasts, maybe,

but perhaps more vividly ourselves to each other
because we did not have to pretend we were alike.


Kate Polak is an artist, writer, and teacher. Her work has recently appeared in Plainsongs, McSweeney’s, So to Speak, Coffin BellThe Closed Eye Open, Inverted Syntax, and elsewhere. She lives in south Florida with her familiars and aspires to a swamp hermitage.