Click here to listen to Laura Van Prooyen read this poem.
In the dark I hear it, the first sign: the cat can no longer jump into the pedestal sink. His companion already fertilizes the variegated dogwood in the yard. This is how my daughter thinks about death, a small ceremony followed by the hope of swift replacement. Families living along the high-tension wires report, more often these days, animals missing. Just last week Mr. Wilson, mystery solved, stood at the bay window as his wife watched from the roll-away kitchen chair a coyote take apart their dachshund. When my father begins to form words after his last round of seizures, he repeats for two minutes straight: tasteless tasteless
tasteless. My first thought is of mashed potatoes and the wrinkled peas I had seen spooned to his mouth. His wife is able to stop the tape of his muttering with her gentle touch and question. What, love, is so tasteless? He looks slowly from the floor to our faces and manages to find the word everything. On our way to the discount store, we go through the forest preserve. Near the creek I quick-stop the car to point out a coyote to my daughter. Despite the cold, we roll down the windows and stay until it lopes out of sight. Silence. Except for the distant highway and plastic bags snapping in treetops even in this slight wind. Last Thanksgiving, when her grandfather still had words but had lost inhibitions, my daughter helped him give the turkey a good one stuffing their fists through the hole. When dinner was served they each took a leg and tore their way to the bone. And this is how my daughter thinks about death. They will shave a patch off the cat. She will cradle our pet in a towel on her lap and watch its face when the needle goes in, because she just wants to see how it ******** looks.