The title of this poem carries two meanings: comprehension and contract. As a feminist, I've been concerned with how we care for people and animals over whom we have power. Recently, I explored this in regard to my father.
That morning when I called, you looked
with what I thought was disdain.
Perhaps it was pain or fear.
Perhaps you knew what I did not:
that you would curl up, cozy up,
to death, and I would cry
over your sleek black fur, perfect,
like a child’s stuffed animal.
More than ever, I wished
we had had a common language.
When you purred in my lap,
were our desires that different?
Letters and cards and calls.
So many words, Mom.
Did we say it all before you slipped away?
So slowly the tumor settled
into your mind, editing your thoughts,
uniting the real and the unreal.
Surely you knew I would love you still,
that I would care for you,
even when you regarded me with suspicion.
Near the end, what were you thinking
as you looked up with those wide green eyes,
those inscrutable cat eyes?
If only I could have had you back
for a moment to say,
“Look how I cared for you.”
“Look how I loved you.”
But you would have hated
the loss of independence and privacy.
Perhaps it’s best
that only one of us knew.