About this Poem 

"Behind a garage, I found a nearly dead cat tied with an electric cord to a metal pipe. He'd rubbed all his fur away and lost most of his body weight. There were maggots in his open wounds and, when I untied him, he hadn't the strength to stand, but collapsed onto his side. The local vet made me promise to adopt him before hooking him to an IV, where he remained for several days. Now a healthy twelve pounds, Pluto has always had a tragic way about him, gentle, nervous, and sweet. I wondered, over the years, what his experience must have been like, then wrote this poem, 'A Story About Dying,' from his point of view. I changed the circumstances of his situation, but, composing the poem, it was Pluto I was imagining."

—Kevin Prufer

A Story About Dying

Kevin Prufer
The old cat was dying in the bushes.
Its breaths came slow, slow, 
                                          and still
it looked out over the sweetness of the back lawn,
the swaying of tall grass in the hot wind,
the way sunlight warmed the garbage can's 
sparkling lid.  
                   It closed its hot eyes, 
then struggled them open again.

+

In unison, the dogs explained themselves
to the passing freight train.

+

I don't know where it's gone, 
her husband said without looking up from his paper

while she stood on the back porch shaking the food bowl,
calling one of its names.   

+

All this the dying old cat observed 
from beneath the bushes, its head
sideways in the grass, its fur wet where the dog
had caught it in its teeth.

+

And now there's another train, 
and the dogs are explaining themselves again.  

+

The food makes that sparkling sound in the metal bowl 
and the cat tries to lift its body from the grass

but it's feeling hollowed out, empty and strange
as though it's floating just above the tips of grass, 
as if its paws barely touch the blades' rich points.

+

Sometimes, the dogs explain themselves to each other, 
or to passing cars, but mostly they address the trains.
We are powerful dogs, they say,
                                            but we are also good,
while the children on bikes, while the joggers, 
while the vast, mysterious trains 
                                              pass them by.

+

The cat is still drifting above the grass tips,
and the sun is so bright the yard sparkles,

and wouldn't it be nice to rest there on the garbage can's hot lid, 
there by the potted plant, there on the car's hood?

But it wants the food glittering in the metal bowl,
the food that, also, drifts above the grass tips.

+

And then the cat floats down the tracks, 
the train's long call a whistling in its head.

+

And the dogs explain themselves to it,
we are good dogs, good dogs, 
                                        as the cat grows
impossibly far away, we are good dogs, 
as the cat is almost a memory, 
   
is barely a taste in the mouth 
of one of the chorus.

Copyright © 2011 by Kevin Prufer. "A Story About Dying" first appeared in The Indiana Review

Copyright © 2011 by Kevin Prufer. "A Story About Dying" first appeared in The Indiana Review

Kevin Prufer

by this poet

poem
They wanted him to stop kicking like that—
it made their eyes corkscrew, drilled the sun in the sky
so light dumped out like blood from a leak.
The boy in the trunk wouldn't die.

They drove and drove, and he dented the trunk's tight lid,
called their names, then pounded the wheel wells
with a tire iron. The sun
poem
The black Mercedes
with the Ayn Rand 
vanity plate
crashed through 
the glass bus stop
and came to rest 
among a bakery’s 
upturned tables.
In the stunned silence,  
fat pigeons descended 
to the wreckage
and pecked at 
the scattered
bread and cake.
The driver slept,
head to the wheel.
The pigeons grew
rich with
poem
A good way to fall in love
is to turn off the headlights
and drive very fast down dark roads.

Another way to fall in love
is to say they are only mints
and swallow them with a strong drink.

Then it is autumn in the body.
Your hands are cold.
Then it is winter and we are still at war.

The gold-haired girl is