Monday, February 9, 2009

Dissolution by fire

Someone close to me lost everything in a house fire once-- her home, her lover, her job, her sense of belonging to the community she lived in. The depth of such a loss is unimaginable to me. I figure either you survive it and reinvent yourself, or you give in and throw yourself to the flames. The worst part of it, for me, was that a housecat disappeared during the fire and was never found. I try not to think too hard about it.

Dissolution by fire

She’d have
risen from the flames a jaguar
scorched timbers echoing
in her coat, each spot
a tiny round mirror
tongue scraping over charcoal
hotly nuzzling her stilled
companion or a compelling
swat to draw him round

but for the little plump cat
with a rude name who disappeared
that night

Rachel Westfall
February 9, 2009


Poetikat said...

Terrible to admit it, but that's what I would be focused on too. In reading about Australia, I am struck mostly by the images of kangaroos and horses. Why, I wonder, do I seem to have more concern for the animals.
Incidentally, if you read the "After the Fire" poem, I should tell you that I had notes for it from last spring and it just seemed the right time to finish it and post it for today.

I do like this poem, but oxymoronically, it freezes my heart.


Kyddryn said...

Beautiful, poignant piece, love.

Last fall, a friend lost her home to fire - she lost everything she owned, including one of her familiars, a Tom cat who wouldn't come out. She went back in three times to get him from where he hid under the bed, but each time she was driven out by smoke and flames. Losing the altar, the coven's Book of Shadows, her clothing and memories...nothing compared to losing her beloved cat.

I've taught my cats to come to a certain call, to find me wherever I am when I make the noise, if only because I fear losing them should fire or tornado decide my home looks good. I hope never to have to use it for anything but the distribution of catnip.

Shade and Sweetwater,

RachelW said...

It's an awful thing to think of, and an even worse thing to live with. I'm sorry for your friend, Kyddryn, whose cat chose to stay hidden but not safe under the bed. Kat, the animals worry me terribly too. The image of animals trapped in a burning barn is sheer horror.

I didn't want to name the person my poem is about, but she is a close family member, and I think the poem could be richer if I was more distanced. When my son was a small child he burst into tears when he heard about the fire; he was worried about her potatoes and beets having gotten all roasted and burned! Such a dear heart.

Diane Vogel Ferri said...

So touching. Your poems are just beautiful.

RachelW said...

Thank you Diane!

Elle said...

That is terrible. May your friend make it through this devastation. I hope her cat just ran out and lost his way. :(

RachelW said...

Thank you Elle... Sadly, this happened over a decade ago, and the cat never was found. It was midwinter, 40 below zero, and the cat could not have gone far. I too hope he found a safe place to be.

christopher said...

Loving Cats

We love them better
not because they love us, no.
They do not love us

(in the human way).

We love them better
because they are clear, simple,
just what they are now.

Catvibe said...

I can't imagine anything worse than to lose my cat in a fire. :-( Great poem.

Lisa said...

i am here is Australia- hot but a way from the fires.
i cant watch and its the animal toll that distresses me the most.
i try to understand the forces of nature but overall, it is beyond human comprehension.
My beleif though, on a spiritual level, is that angels step in before the suffering becomes unbearable - now more than ever, i am clinging to that beleif.
your poetry inspires me, as always.

Lisa xx

RachelW said...

Christopher, you are right, cats are something different. Diffident even.

Cat, yeah me too... or any of the beings I share my home with. It would be so horrible.

Lisa, I'm glad you are away from the fires. I hope you are right, and there is some relief for the affected beings before it becomes too much to bear.

Cat man said...

Dissolved by fire,
"risen from the flames a jaguar"--she survives!
The "housecat" also survives, as cats never perish--they live to prowl again--to search for and choose their mate...

From fire comes life; from life comes fire!

May she find peace from fire....

Catvibe said...

Rachel, there's an award for you at my blog. ;-)

RachelW said...

Cat, thank you so much for thinking of me! :)

Cat man, you seem familiar somehow, like we might have met somewhere. Were you a Wolf man in a past incarnation?

colleen said...

Hot. Now I want to know the cat's name.

RachelW said...

Shitty Kitty. And there is a story behind that one...

Karen said...

I love that you've given her life through this poem.

She'd have
risen from the flames a jaguar

Beautiful picture of rising from the ashes.

Wolfman-Catman said...

I am the wolf-man, the cat-man, too!

a wildheart!!....

From the fire we rise again and again,

Meow-meow and Aaaaaa--Woooooo to you!

RachelW said...

Karen, thank you!
WM-CM, you are morphing...

S.L. Corsua said...

Strong lines, choice words, vivid imagery. The potency of each line has the element of fire, methinks. And the 'swat/cat' part has the lash effect of having the reality of the content brought home.

A powerful short piece, dear. One of my favorites here. Cheers.