A Poem in The Southern Review and the Story Behind the Poem
|Mr. Otis Travnic 2000-2010|
One of the hardest poems I've written in recent times is about my cat Otis. He came into my life within a few months of my moving to a new city alone. Emphasis on alone. Otis was a one woman cat. He rarely allowed anyone other than me to see him, never mind touch him. He was my pet of a lifetime.
After Otis died, I knew I needed to honor him in the best way I know how. And yet. And yet I knew writing about cats was no easy task. I told myself not to mention whiskers or tails or adorable ears.I needed to avoid even the hint of nostalgia or cliche. I read The Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin which contains several eulogies to Merwin's dog. The fact of these poems inspired me.
If Merwin could write about his dog, then I could write about my cat. The poem took me over a year to begin. When I did, I found a fragment of a journal entry that I'd written and abandoned during the last three weeks of Otis's life. In those final weeks I took care of him close to twenty-four hours a day. Now two and a half years later, this poem appears in The Southern Review. I don't know that I've ever been happier about any journal publication. This one's for you, Otis.
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.”— Anatole France
I photograph you every morning
In a cruel attempt to capture
A formal souvenir of what I love
After breakfast, and then
Each day a little less
You take a stand, examine finches
(to read the rest of "Going—" you'll need to get a copy of The Southern Review, Fall 20012)