In first light I see
the black cat waiting for me
below the kitchen window perch.
“Jump up, beautiful girl — you
can do it!” I urge her and she leaps
up light, lands heavy, settles in
to her treats and wet food. The calico
does the same for her bowl across the room;
they are, for the moment, content.
I allow myself a thin smile
before I start the coffee,
before the scent fills the kitchen,
before I look out the front windows,
before I take a breath of the Stench out there.
It takes me a hard breath or two
before I relax into the care
it takes to stand myself upright
in the teeth of the Stench.
Dare I turn on the television? Dare I
open my mail? Dare I think of how things
might be getting better or worse?
Dare I count the dead?
Dare I count the sneers and curses?
Dare I measure
the indifference of the alleged good majority?
Dare I call them out as the deep source
of this smell?
It’s taken me far too long to call it
as I sense it: that it is not behavior seen
or anger heard nearly as much as it is
an odor that chokes me,
makes everything taste less healthy;
an odor so thick it coats my skin
and distorts my touch; a Stench
from a host of graves, blood soaked
so deep into the soil it stains every foundation
and leaks into the roots of every tree
and blade of grass.
In spite of how I choke upon the Stench
the cats seem to ignore it, are purring and happy,
falling back to sleep in their favorite spots
before I pour my first cup of coffee. I suck it down
and here I am again, wondering if today is the day
that I will suffocate at last.
One cat sneezes. I look up to see
the calico stretching and reforming to her tight space.
She wheezes a bit. Might be the Stench,
might be simpler than that.
I’m sure it’s simpler than that.
I need to believe there are those I love
unaffected by the Stench.
My love, asleep still in the next room?
All I want is for her to live through this
and thrive again, breathe clean again.
As for myself, all I ask
is that I may live long enough
to help to clear the air.