Revised from 8/28/2020.
In first light I see
the black cat waiting for her food
below her perch in the kitchen window.
“Jump up, beautiful girl — you
can do it!”
She leaps up light,
lands heavy, settles in
to 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 weak 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
and ask the daily questions:
dare I turn on the television,
open my mail, think of how things
might be getting better or worse?
Dare I count the dead? Dare I count
sneers and curses? Dare I measure or note
the indifference of the alleged good majority
and call them out as the source of this smell?
It’s taken me far too long to call this as I sense this:
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;
odor so thick it coats my skin,
distorts my touch; a pale Stench
from a host of dark graves;
blood so soaked into our soil
that 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. She wheezes a bit.
Might be the Stench,
might be simpler than that.
I’m sure it’s simpler than that.
My love is still asleep still in the next room.
All I want is for her to live through this
and thrive again, breathe clean again.
For myself? All I ask
is that I live long enough
to help clear the air.