Alfred Kubin – Dream Animal, 1903


Shortly after the Sonoma County wildfires were extinguished, I was asked to write a poem for the local newspaper. Everyone seemed to have a story about evacuating their pets, especially their cats.


Tell me again about your cat –
the one you evacuated
during the wildfires
how you searched for her
under beds, in the black widow lairs
in the woods and splintery barns, and
how you caught her in a pillowcase
to take her to your sister’s house in Marin
where she yowled through the night
complained bitterly about the company
then shredded the sofa and
peed on the Berber rugs before she
shat in your brother in law’s shoe.

Tell me again about her dementia
how you raced back past the barriers
through the burning trees
to get her medication
and her favorite pillow
and how she abandoned you
for a house not yet aflame
for a family with no children, no dogs
and 700 shopping network channels
wet food from a can
and how, when you were choking in smoke
marooned in a distant town,
you cared only for your cat
left behind in a rain of
cinders and ashes.

Then tell me of your dog
how he comforted you
and licked your tears
and stayed with the sheep
and never left the house
or left and then came back
across the wasteland
the scorch earth, the burning roads
with singed whiskers
and blistered paws
and begged for forgiveness.

Tell me how he never complained,
how he knew it was coming
and warned you, and how he
how he lost his favorite sock
his favorite buried bone
but dug a little hole in the sand
on the beach at Goat Rock
where you went to breathe
and he stared quietly at the sea
with his gentle paw upon your hand
and promised to be forever
at your side
wherever home might be.

Then tell me again
how it was your cat
who embodied home and hearth
when you feared all was lost
and how you were rewarded
for all your worry and despair
with a sphincter in the face
a little cat scratch fever
or, at best, her cold indifference –

And I will tell you that
I have nothing left to say
about the strangeness
of the human heart.

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