It has been a busy morning, full of the kind of work that makes time pass quickly. It’s almost noon, and I don’t know how the hours have escaped me. My daughter has called me a couple of times to cry in my ear, tell me how thirsty she is. It hurts to swallow, Daddy, she says. I can’t drink. I really think she has strep throat. I hate feeling this powerless. I want to be the person who swoops in and makes her feel instantly better. I’m used to being that person. The problem-solver. Daddy-god.
I have to somehow get her healthy before Halloween. It would be really good if I can get her better by tomorrow afternoon. I hate for her to miss dance classes. She looks forward to them so much. And then, tomorrow night, we’re supposed to have dinner with some friends. They’re cooking Indian food, and we’re bringing dessert. Saturday, she has another dance class. Then, of course, Monday is trick-or-treat day. She’s been dying to wear her Little Red Riding Hood costume. I shelled out $30 for her Little Red Riding Hood shoes alone. She has to get better by tomorrow, or it messes up my, ummmmm, I mean, her life.
Okay, I’m just getting myself in trouble here.
Poem. I have a new poem for you. It’s sort of Halloween-ish. It’s got a corpse in it. It’s got a corpse and dissection. So, it’s sort of like Frankenstein. Or Hannibal Lecter. Have you forgotten how self-centered I sounded a little while ago? Not yet? Hmmmmmmm.
Saint Marty’s just going to cut his losses and sign off.
We named her Penelope, after Odysseus’s wife,
Because we liked the story of her fooling
All those guys hungry for her rosy bod,
Making them wait, sunrise to sunset,
For years as she braided, unbraided
Their fleshy need, over and over,
Held their greedy cock crows in check.
We skinned our Penelope the first day
Of the semester, stripped off her hide
The way I imagined Davy Crockett pelted
Beaver or raccoon, the occasional bear.
We started at her neck, sliced a delicate
Ring around it, then peeled the fur
Back, slow as an ice age, scraping
With a scalpel so the pink
Derma remained perfect, smooth
As birth. We made similar cuts
Around her paws, tail, and anus,
Left small patches of her dark hair,
So that, at the end of the class period,
The muscles of her torso and legs
Gleamed under the fluorescent lights
Like a turkey on Thanksgiving morning.
My lab partners and I lifted Penelope,
Danced her across the table, made jokes
About shaved pussy, splayed her
Legs open like the girls in Penthouse.
When the bell rang, we packed her
In a box, wrote our names on it,
Her name on it, in black marker.
Put her in the storage room,
The place we dubbed the cathouse.
Every day, for the next three months,
We hauled Penelope out, pulled her
Apart, piece by piece, labeling,
Cataloging. When we got to her womb,
Made the cut, we found them.
Three unborn kittens, alien creatures,
Amorphous as Playdough. We scooped
Them out, laid them in front of us.
Stared at their unformed faces.
For the first time that year,
We were silent, as if we had just
Unearthed Tutankhamun or discovered
A Dead Sea Scroll. Something ancient,
Marked with divine knowledge
About creation or life, an almost
Nativity in our teenaged hands.
I wanted to make a comment about
Our promiscuous feline, perhaps
Dig a condom out of my wallet, jam
It into her chest cavity, give a lecture
About safe sex and disease. Instead,
We took the kittens, tucked them back
Inside Penelope without a word, covered
Them with membrane and tissue,
Left them there, the way my mother
Left pans of bread dough overnight,
To bubble, leaven, rise into Sunday
Morning. Become something
Fermented, full of the smell of yeast.
Uncooked and waiting, always waiting,
For Penelope to finish her burial shroud.