Love poem with a dying cat

Two years into anorexia recovery, 
when I begin to miss dying more than ever, 
my cat begins to hide. 
She disappears for hours and I find her 
hammocked in the lining of my couch. 
She has hollowed it out with her teeth 
and stares at me through cobwebbed eyes. 

I am startled at my own anger. 
After all the time and love I’ve given her, 
I can’t forgive her turning away like this. 
My partner reminds me that cats 
do not know how to be cruel, 
but they do know survival and fear. 
Each day, I reach into the dark 
mouth of the couch and pull her, 
claws and all, back into life. 

Weeks later, she dies with no one home. 
I discover the body and the urge to blame 
myself glows hot in my chest. 
How could I let her die 
in an empty house? 
How could I be so cruel. 

On the drive to donate her body, 
my partner apologizes with every breath. 
We pull over and he cries into my coat, 
How could I let this happen? 
And I know that if he feels guilty too, 
maybe the blame belongs to neither of us. 

This is the person who tried 
to breathe life back into the cat’s corpse, 
without realizing what he was doing. 
He did it because his instincts told him to, 
because every cell in his body is good. 
For weeks, the memory will make him 
shiver, gag, rinse the moment from his mouth. 

This is the person who gave everything 
to keep me alive, when letting me die 
was the easiest thing to do. 
He never stopped looking for me 
when I hid in the hollows of myself and my heart 
became a shadowy hallway of locked doors. 

This is the person who, if I died 
as the doctor said I would, 
would surely blame himself, 
and I would bang my phantom fists 
against the plexiglass of the living world, 
screaming No! 

I did not die. 
And when I was stuck in the hospital, 
sobbing as I pictured him living our life alone, 
I wrote him a letter asking how 
he could ever forgive me. 
He wrote back saying I would 
rather miss you for a while 
than miss you forever. 

In the car now, he asks how 
we’ll ever survive this 
and I say Together. 

Copyright © 2024 by Nen G. Ramirez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 11, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.