Yesterday, April 17 2012, we finally had to let go of our 17 year old cat Itty Pity. She took care of me for 13 years–practically my whole adult life. She moved up to NYC from Florida with me back in 2000 and has been the one consistent thing through years of trying to “figure it out” in Brooklyn. I will greatly miss being poked in the face in the middle of the night, meowed at from the top of the refrigerator in the morning, and having to share my popsicle’s with her (she had odd tastes). Though she’s mentioned a lot in Dogs of Brooklyn her poem was edited out. Sometimes its hardest to write well about those closest to us.
The Ballad of Itty Pity
You found me splayed out on top of the garage waiting
for Debbie-gut punched by first love’s fist. My scorecard
read “World-1, Susie-0.” You sniffed then paw poked me,
claws scraping my sweaty Florida arm waking.
You’d had enough of your 5 cats, 3 dogs, and 2 lovebirds
predicament at the old Tallahassee house on the hill—Precious,
who they thought was a she soon they discovered a he under
all that white fluff fur, now he’s going by Mr. P.
Harley’s biker cat matted mange, Merlin’s 17-year-old
tongue hanging out, Phoebe’s cantankerous mews
of the news of the day. Enough of dodging the dogs
out back’s barks and bounds—Busho, Kota Bear,
and Honey the red (not hot) dog. Your green eyes plead
as you nuzzled my shoulder rattling my sobs with your purr.
The 2 lovebirds, Debbie and Dan, walked up laughing,
told me to take you. Itty Pity goes to the City
in my final escape from the liquid air of Southern states.
You howled the whole way up in the U-Haul as I changed
radio stations every few minutes much to my Dad’s dismay.
We moved into our first apartment alone, an illegal
underground bunker in the middle of Park Slope. We prayed
there’d be no fires, and you didn’t see the sun for two years
like some prisoner. At 22 it was the best I could do, you forgave
me for your own bowl of kibble and a warm bed.
Then we moved on up into that sunshine St. Marks apartment
above the dogs across from the lumberyard sawing drunks.
You stared out the window at the trees and birds for hours
while I broke my heart over and over. Debbie called,
said the 2 lovebirds broke up and started drinking again.
You just sat by me cajoling cuddles, snuggling sickness out—
it took years. Finally after ten years you molded me into less
of a mess, though the latest apartment has sporadic heat
and I come home smelling of other animals. This city—a bunch
of boxes and bodies stacked up on top of each other all waiting
for their turn in the spotlight, at love, at peace in all the noise
and distraction. You just want me to come home.
Yesterday also marked the loss of one of my oldest clients. Ginger who I took care of for about 12 years. She taught me it was ok to not want to be lonely, with her sad pleading eyes every time I had to leave her. She was one of the fastest dogs at Prospect Park in her day and would run circles around everyone. Here’s her poem from Dogs of Brooklyn.
Olive sleeps squished up in a fruit bowl on the kitchen
counter, her striped and spotted tail swishing over its
ceramic side, taunting. After hours, she wakes to case
the clank of the front fence gate. No hurry, she stretches
long and yawns, slowly making her way. Ginger’s ears
perk at the stir and thunk of kitten kitchen table pranks.
Ten years castle queen then along this coy cat came,
sauntering around like she owns the place. Ginger’s
toenails click on the wooden floor as she investigates.
From nowhere a white paw socks her muzzle gray.
She jumps back barking and looks up to find Olive’s
tiny frame towering over her dog, mocking. Quick,
to the window chase! Distracted, retaliation will have
to wait while they contemplate all of the people out on
the sidewalk marching in time trying to keep pace.