An Elegy for Your Cat


October 2, 2017 by The Citron Review

by Charles Kaufmann


There’s a term for when, half-awake, you feel your cat jump up on the bed, as usual, curl up on her spot to the left of your pillow, as usual, and begin purring. She’s fallen from the stars out there, somewhere from within Orion’s Belt in the clear, cold midnight sky of early December. She’s come in through the closed window above your bed, joined you as she always does, the feral kitten from the shelter your 12-year-old son named Koko—because Koko is what they call kittens in Japan—your best friend, your companion through years of crises, depression, and, finally, personal resurrection.

There she is one morning at the back door, waiting to come in after you’ve called, not lost in the freezing sleet and frigid wind. And there she is again two weeks later, even after you’ve replaced her with two new feral kittens, the one, Ruffian, curled up and asleep in Koko’s favorite spot, suddenly terrorized by some nightmare—some night terror—driving him off the bed, as if no creature but Koko, from then until forever, has permission to occupy that place.

Thanksgiving night, you found Koko’s frail, stiff, frozen body on the meadow across from Wolfe’s Neck, at the tip of land called Stockbridge Point, where the Harraseeket’s brackish mouth narrows into a raging ebb and flow, where there is a cluster of tall, spindly white pines that sway in winter gales like the masts of tall ships, where you and Koko used to go for walks. Stuck in her mouth was a single blade of green grass, her last effort to stave off dehydration, hypothermia, starvation, as if by swallowing that blade she could puke up death itself, like a hairball, and be well again.

You buried Koko under those white pines, wrapped in her favorite blanket; you tossed in her worn, forest-green breakaway collar with its small, round, blue metallic tag that reads “Koko” and gives your telephone number. Next to the blanket, you placed her favorite multi-colored felt ball, the one your sister made from laundry lint, and as you filled the tiny grave—those frozen-clay walls so carefully clean and square—you left a tulip bulb near the surface, something that would live again in the spring, something that would mark the grave year after year.

The term is grief visitation: random moments when your mind fools you with hallucinations, tricks you into seeing things that are gone, confuses you with patterns it can’t quite give up on, bewitches you into believing, against your better judgement, that Ruffian’s spook is the chimera of a jealous former pet, not the tapeworms that are winding their way through his intestines. (You’ll take care of those at the vet.)

But if it is Koko? Not the brain, not the worms: a ghost, a spirit, alive, trying to get back home—again, and again?

The term for that is love.

Charles Kaufmann is a writer, filmmaker, composer, and the founding director of The Longfellow Chorus, a professional non-profit performing arts organization in Portland, Maine. As a musician and writer, he often seeks to draw upon musical lyricism as a source of lyric expression in prose. He is currently working on a nonfiction novel based on the personal notebooks of Lucien Price, a journalist who wrote anonymous editorials for The Boston Globe between 1914 and 1964.


38 thoughts on “An Elegy for Your Cat

  1. Birgitta J. Halbakken says:

    Congratulations Charles! I am very happy to see that your beautiful story is posted here and made possible for many to read. Very sensitively written about sides of life and death that doesn’t show, but we from time to time experience.

  2. susan hirsch says:

    Beautiful story on Koko, the haunting roots of white pines, composted grief, and love.

  3. This is heartbreakingly beautiful for I, too, have known this love.

  4. Thank you, Citron Review, for publishing my story.

  5. curioussteph says:

    Very affecting. Beautiful and sad, as is so often the course of the journey of love.

  6. Jeff Cann says:

    Wow – that’s a good story.

  7. htoane says:

    I walked in such shoes half a dozen times. You captured the idea with the perfect story. Thank you Charles.

  8. Leonila Tado says:

    I really admired your writing style…

  9. This is so beautiful. We had lost our dear puppy last year and your lovely writing has gently brought out some fond memories. Thank you.

  10. Orvillewrong says:

    Beautifully sad, you don’t own a cat, they own you!

  11. It’s magical!! Wonderful writing

  12. Stanley says:

    Its my personal experience that the cat feels whenever the ghost or negative energy enter in the house. !!

    Am I right?

  13. feby34 says:

    Beautifully written Charles. It reminds me of the death of those who are dear to me. How much I loved them. And how blessed I am to be a part of their life. I hope this post inspires people as much as it inspires me.

    Once again, thank you Charles

  14. qkanyi says:

    Such an amazing piece☺

  15. That’s a sad fact, illustrated very poetically

  16. This is beautiful and bittersweet. I am sorry you found your cat like that, I don’t know if I could ever lose that image.

    I feel a bit silly doing it, but am putting a link to a post I wrote over a year ago about our sweet old girl, Gwennie. It is universal, what richness pets bring to our lives.

  17. ritzymomstl says:

    That was SO beautiful.

  18. INNER CHAOS says:

    its a heartouching and a beautiful story

  19. PETWONE says:

    It‘s a very touching story. I have a cat in my family.

  20. SpanishRed says:

    Reblogged this on The Ochre Muse.

  21. As a cat lover I completely relate to the intensity of love and the bond we might be lucky enough to share with a feline. Beautifully written.


  22. Keoria says:

    I have never really had a pet cat but this was so surreal. As though this happened to me. It made me mourn for Koko and wish I could have my companion back.

  23. smsmith says:

    I found this through Discover. Amazingly beautiful. And haunting. We had to put our cat down last week. We loved her for 17 years. Her name was Coco.

  24. The Weird Poet says:

    Why do you do this? Huhu. Im a cat lover here and this is a lovely elegy. Thanks for a good read!

  25. awax1217 says:

    Over the years we have lost twelve cats. I still remember their names and some of their mannerisms. Cats only live twenty odd years and therefore they are fleeting in our life spans.

  26. Betty says:

    So sad and beautiful at the same time. My sweet Sam (the one in the pic) went missing and found a day & 1/2 later killed we presume by some other animal. This was in September 2017and I’m still grieving for him.

  27. katowoblog says:

    As a cat lover, and one whose lost pets to the harsh reality called life, this touch me deeply. I can’t find words to explain how emotional this piece is because of how relatable the incident is, and how there are several strays and outdoor cats who end up being taken by the cold in both people, and mother nature. It’s one of the reasons that the cat I currently live with is with me. He was a stray, about a month old, when he crawled into my garage in October of 2014, and now he is a spoiled, fat, indoor cat.

  28. This moved me to tears. Pets have such an impact on us, weaving themselves in silently into our daily lives.
    I lost my companion and a year later , his loss drove me to write about him. In sharing your loss, here is a similar piece.

  29. Cate says:

    Gorgeous; a perfect balance of heartbreak and restraint. So glad to find this featured by WordPress!

  30. puhalenthi says:

    Same. Thought I had it together, then saw her paw prints on the hardwood floor, wept.

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