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           Good-Bye Bug

           by Richard Hartwell


There is much of prayer in a pat on the head to my cat, Bug.
                        He is going to the vet today for what is probably the last time.
                        He seems to know this and creates with me a shared decision.

The pat on the head, the gentle petting along the sleek hairs
                        On the back of his neck and ears, the scratching under his chin,
                        Are all not just casual demonstrations of love and care, but
                        Duplicate copies of moments we have shared many times.

They serve, however, as benediction and absolution and grace,
                        As commendation and a farewell, good speed, quietude, and rest.
                        These momentary points of contact between us serve as reminders,
                        Some of what I am losing, while I strive to remember what he will gain.           
                        Bug has earned his freedom from pain and terror and humiliation.

I realize all this and I realize too that my tears are selfish,
                        But my philosophy has not yet caught up with my emotions.
                        I try to keep my grief private, but I do a lousy job of that too.
                        I project ahead to the void in my life and continue to shovel
                        Bitter ashes and salt into it, where it makes no impact.  I’m empty,
                        While everything but time stands still.



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