Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Fragmented and Disconnected"

This poem is from the February 3, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from LJ user My_partner_doug. It also fills the "curtainfic" square in my 1-3-15 card for the [community profile] trope_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Damask thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Fragmented and Disconnected"


Macavity comes and goes
exactly as he pleases,
a thin ginger tomcat
slipping between fences.

He gives me that slow blink
that cats have, almost like
he's kissing me with his eyes.

Sometimes I use my talent
to make spots of light on the ground
for him to chase and play with.


Macavity is a strange companion.

Sometimes he avoids me,
licking his shoulder and
walking away when I
come to the front.

Other times he watches me
while I'm working out.

Become the shadow,
a voice murmurs in my mind,

and I can almost get the sense of it,
as if I could merge Mira's gift with my own
to sidle through unseen and bend myself
bonelessly around the corners,

but it always slips away again
before I can quite catch it, like
a cat who does not want to be petted.


I chatter at Macavity
as I clean the refrigerator.

"Who's a good kitty?" I say
as I clean out the dairy drawer.
"Do you want some cheese?"

"Mrrrp," he replies,
and I put a few shreds
on the napkin for him.

I wash out the drawer
in the sink, and there I see
Paige's jar of bacon grease
sitting on the counter.

"I bet you'd like a taste of this, too,"
I say, waggling the jar at Macavity.

He stands up on his hind paws,
dancing eagerly for the treat,
and gives a loud, "Maarrrow!"

"It's good for preventing hairballs,"
I tell him, which is actually
something I learned from Clement.

"You're going to spoil that cat,"
Mallory drawls as I drop bacon grease
onto the napkin for Macavity.


Mentally I review what he's been eating;
we keep a bowl of dry food on the porch
for him now, along with some water.

"No, I'm keeping track so he doesn't
get too much," I tell Mallory.

The cat finishes his snack and glides
under the table, out of the way.

"Will he be all right in here?" I ask.
"I mean, are you allergic or anything?"

"Not specifically," says Mallory.
"On a bad day I shouldn't be around
anything that's an allergen, but
most of the time I'm okay with cats.
I don't think this one likes me much, though."

It's true that Macavity is opinionated
and unpredictable -- he doesn't even
like all of my headmates the same way.

Mallory watches him, his eyes no more
than two amber gleams under the table,
like the reflectors on a bicycle's wheels,
gauging how he responds to us.


In the afternoon, I watch Macavity
out in the yard, slowly gnawing the head
off a rat he has captured.

Somehow I'm usually the one
he does gross things in front of,
and I can't help wondering
if he does it on purpose just
to see me wrinkle my nose
and back away.

I feel fragmented and disconnected,
like I have ever since Mallory
brought Heron over to the house and
Ham just about bit their heads off.

Sometimes I think Ham is like a cat himself,
prickly and unpredictable, one minute
rubbing against your leg and then
the next clawing your hand.

I just don't know whether
to pet him or walk away.


It's been hard to balance the needs
between Ham and Clement
and everyone else,

harder now with Clement so desperate
to learn from another healer, with
Ham and Mira so determined
to protect our secrets.

The ache of that tension
spreads through my chest,
and I breathe through it,
channeling the pain
into power.

Warm fur brushes against my skin
as Macavity flows into my lap
and curls himself into a ball,
purring like an engine.

Already I can feel the taut ache
begin to ease, the pain fading until
it drops below the threshold I can use.

"That's quite a superpower you have,"
I say as I pet the soft fur.

It's not a superpower,
he replies. All cats can do that.

"He's feeling friendly now?" Mallory asks,
sitting down beside me on the living room couch.

"Apparently so," I agree. My hand finds
its own way along the vibrating body.
The cushions sigh as Mallory
shifts a little closer so she
can lean against my side.

"He always seems to know
what mood you're in," she says.
"I wish it were that easy
for me to figure out."

All you have to do is listen,
Macavity muses, but I can't tell
whether Mallory hears him or not.

Maybe it doesn't matter.
I'm not as worried as Ham or Mira
are about exposure, nor Clement
about lack of training.

I just clean up whatever emotional fallout
comes from the rest of my headmates.

With Mallory warm and heavy against my shoulder,
already drifting toward much-needed sleep,
and Macavity purring in my lap,

my job is a little easier.

* * *


"Animals have come to mean so much in our lives. We live in a fragmented and disconnected culture. Politics are ugly, religion is struggling, technology is stressful, and the economy is unfortunate. What's one thing that we have in our lives that we can depend on? A dog or a cat loving us unconditionally, every day, very faithfully."
-- Jon Katz

Women and cats may interact somewhat differently than men and cats. Here you can see that Macavity has slightly different ways of interacting with each headmate. Despite Damask knowing that Macavity is a telepath, they haven't quite put together that he knows their secret, probably because he's a cat rather than a human.

Cats blink to blow you a kiss.

Cat body language is complex. Composure grooming can indicate unease or dismissal. Petting aggression or avoidance of petting may happen with sensitive or mercurial cats.

Women talk more to their cats, and cats talk back to their people. Notice that some individual cats, and breeds, are more or less talkative. Many oriental breeds are chatty cats, as is the Maine coon; and it's no accident these also rank among the most intelligent breeds. Since Macavity is super-intelligent and a telepath, he could express himself in more human terms; but often he prefers his native tongue.

Cats love the taste of fat, and it helps prevent hairballs; bacon grease is one popular choice.

Cats hunt many things that humans consider vermin; even the presence and smell of a cat may deter rats. Cats may present dead critters as a gift or to receive praise, but some seem to treat it as a prank to make humans cringe or scream, a game in the same category as Rub the Cat Hater/Allergic Person.

Some cats are particularly alert to distress and will comfort an upset person. Purring soothes pain and speeds healing of injuries. In Terramagne, I count superpowers as things which a species cannot ordinarily do. For cats, purring is not a superpower because they all do it, even though it boosts healing in ways that would be a minor superpower for humans. Conversely speaking aloud is not a superpower for humans, but is for most other species.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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