Wednesday, May 10, 2006


It's not the fact that I'm working on yet another chapbook that bases itself in the year of 2005 but in how birds played a part in my year (from looking for macaws in Costa Rica to the return of birds to New York to dealing with my own canary's death) and how pecked out birdseed and plucked feathers would quickly accumulate into scattered patterns on exposed papers in my room (the forthcoming collection will be called "Birdseed"), but lately I've just been reminded of pets in general. Every phone call home has carefully tucked into the home news a line or two about how my cat is getting older, slower. "She eats very little now, barely drinks water" my Mom informs me, something else tucked inside such plain-stated news.

A late night watching of Gates of Heaven drifts by barely recalled, save that I see no mention of beloved birds (not evena parrot!), but plenty cats and dogs. All my life I've had animals to care for: cats, dogs, ducks, rabbits, turtles, tree frogs, bobcats, fish, even a crab named Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is the longest period of time I've ever gone in my life without an animal to care for, but I can say that it barely registers for me now (and the house mouse doesn't quite count; he's more like a fourth roomie, the one you only see out rummaging in the kitchen well after midnight, his shit all over the place, never paying rent on time).

I still miss my bird, miss his movement in the corner of my room, miss how the drawing of the curtains first thing in the morning took on even greater significance for him than for me, the letting in of sunlight a crucial life-affirming ritual. It's distant now, so it's not that dramatic, just that the tiniest of rituals still stick like little splinters in me. Even something as simple as grabbing bunches of mescalin salad mix (a friend calls such stuff "Yuppie Chow") has been altered without him waiting for me at home. I used to always grab an extra one of those white clumped stalks of frissee lettuce, as they were my bird's favorite greens to snip at with his little canary beak. Now I shake all of them free so as to never have them weigh down the bag.

Visiting a friend of mine earlier in the week, it's difficult to adjust to the dog in his house. The doggie acts less like a backyard pet (I was never allowed to have a dog in the house so having them indoors is a bti much for me to take) and more like a petulant child, constantly demanding attention. Together they recreate those weird old lady and precious pet conversations from Gates: doggie yaps meld into the goochy-goos of his owner, creating a most bizarre dialogue. Okay, it's not that weird, as I used to whistle back at Tupac in bird-brained conversation, it's just that now there's no one for me to talk at.