When the moment comes
you leap lightening-swift
and disappear into the bushes.
Then you trot into the house,
tail in the air, bearing your gift for all to admire:
a wounded hummingbird.
We bury the bird out back, under the lemon tree.
You follow with your tail wagging, watching intently.
As we’re digging the hole,
you turn and leap into the herb garden to chase a dragonfly.
We get a bell and hesitantly buckle it to your neck,
hoping to save humming birds without shackling your spirit.
Next morning at dawn
as I sit meditating on the deck overlooking the ocean,
I hear a tinkling bell, feel a soft thud on my lap,
hear purring in my ears, and feel drool on my hands.
Now I know:
your spirit is not to be shackled.
The bell becomes part of you.
All of us, Wendy and I and the other cats,
look up whenever we hear the tinkles
that announce your entry.
Then you arrive, tail wagging and eyes bright,
scanning us, the other cats’ food bowls,
and everything that flies, crawls or moves.
No matter where you look or leap,
you expect, and receive, only good.
When you perch on the deck railing
watching the flying birds with such intensity,
you seem like,
were it not for the laws of physics
tied like a bell around your neck,
you would take off and fly with them.
So little and so young,
you’ve became our teacher.
Then you get sick.
You breathe fast, look panicked, hide under the bed.
Wendy takes off your bell.
“We tried to drain her lungs but it’s not working,”
the vet tells us by phone three days later.
try to keep her alive with expensive, painful, uncertain surgery,
or let her go now?
Wendy and I sit in silence on the couch,
the one where you love to sit between us.
We pray, cry, hold each other.
The next morning, at dawn, I’m back on the deck, seeking guidance.
Who knows the moment of death? Who can decide?
Now I can see you on the railing,
tail wagging as you look out at the vast expanse before you,
no longer encumbered by the bell around your neck,
eyes intently ahead, quivering with excitement,
ready to leap when the moment comes.