Sharon McCartney

Impending Death of the Cat / My Father / Marie Antoinette's Last Thoughts

Sharon McCartney

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Impending Death of the Cat

Something's wrong with the cat – she wanes
gossamer thin, ghostly, her spine a prominent
span, a Golden Gate, from which her mane
of dandruffed fur hangs. Hundreds at the vet,
X-rays, blood tests – still no diagnosis.
Palpated, rehydrated, she defeats
our fears, but for how long? I fold challis,
soft wool, her stately sickbed, buy Fancy Feast,
patiently sop the hazards of vomit, clean
rugs and linens ad nauseam, ignore
the debris of death, messiness, futile routine
of food and shit. Say it: nothing will restore
her health. And yet, remark her purr, her carriage,
How she embodies the state of our marriage.

My Father

His inability to connect meaningfully
attracted shallow company.
Needy women, narrow thinkers.
He was the jovial one, good-natured,
but no one ever really talked to him.
His third (or fourth, we're not sure) wife said,
"Your father's anger...".

His advice to me: "It's fine to do something you enjoy,
Sharon, but it's easier to enjoy what you're doing,
if you make a lot of money doing it."

His values: right wing conservatism, racism, 
sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, McCarthyism,
money. The Marx Brothers, but not Karl Marx.
Barry Goldwater. Richard M. Nixon.
Get the U.S. out of the U.N.

He hired Hispanics, but not African-Americans.
In 1968, I was the only person I knew
whose parents voted for George Wallace.

Yet, there was tenderness in his heart.
He loved us. How he wept at my sister's funeral,
abjectly, unselfconsciously, grasping my hand,
like a child endeavoring to endure the cruelty of this world.

Once, when I was home for Christmas,
he asked me to drive him to her grave.
He had a small plastic Santa that he leaned
against her stone. This pleased him.
A gaudy bauble for the dead.
I go hollow inside thinking of that.

Marie Antoinette's Last Thoughts

I'll say this: every day I learn something new,
such sudden purity, all those hesternal woes
severed, liberated from the grief of the body,
its ridiculous needs. No hands to wring. How
foolish I was in the younger years to succumb
to flattery, blinding myself to the other's narrowness – 
I thought he took pleasure in pleasing me – how
foolish also to think of the world as succession,
lines, the autumnal promenade of the spine,
when clearly it's ovoid, haphazard tumbling,
the way time revolves, memory's carousel,
my son laughing, a parfait of images, braided 
strands of topaz and gilt. The confection of defeat,
surrender, the shouts of the crowd receding.
They can't touch me, a sinking, weightlessness
and the elation of that, if only it would last,
the embrace, aflame. Why, with such a capacity
for joy, do we choose to create pain?

Sharon McCartney

Sharon McCartney is the author of Metanoia (Biblioasis, forthcoming Spring 2016), Hard Ass (2013, Palimpsest), For and Against (2010, Goose Lane Editions), The Love Song of Laura Ingalls Wilder (2007, Nightwood Editions), Karenin Sings the Blues (2003, Goose Lane Editions) and Under the Abdominal Wall(1999, Anvil Press). Her poems have been included in the 2012 and 2013 editions of the Best Canadian Poetry in English. In 2008, she received the Acorn/Plantos People's Prize for poetry for The Love Song of Laura Ingalls Wilder. She has an M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop.