Without Nine Lives


Without Nine Lives

When I think of a child
being killed,
I think of how a child feels
when a cat is run over,
of a chest too small
for its grief, of a small chest tight
with disbelief–

I make no parallel between the deaths
of child and cat, I am talking about how the child

how he or she wonders what kind of world
could let a cat
be run over,
and whether that cat will go
to heaven and whether some day
(picturing clouds)
he or she will see
the cat there.

Maybe the child will even write a story
about the cat, the way its markings made it look
like a pirate, and how its fur could sometimes give off a spark aside
the softness, its slide
about everyone’s pants’ legs, and
the pink black white brown yellow
of its impossible

Only when the child reads aloud
the story, the page rumpled in the way of a sea seen
from a cloud,
the part about the cat being run over
will crowd
his or her throat, though
the words are short words, words that fit into
a small palm, and he or she will hand
the rifled page to us, we who already know
what kind of world, saying,
you read. 


Draftish poem written for no reason other than that I have been thinking a lot about gun issues since Obama’s announcement of his executive orders (basically an effort to enforce existing laws.)  I will probably link to Real Toads Open Platform. 


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13 Comments on “Without Nine Lives”

  1. Sherry Marr Says:

    This poem really speaks to me, my friend. The bigger story is right there, under the smaller story of the child and cat, which is not a small story at all, echoing our larger world. The child’s throat filling, “you read”……….you absolutely nailed it.

  2. Marian Says:

    Oh good lord this poem put the catch in my throat.

  3. Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade) Says:

    Marvellous! You are such an original thinker!

  4. hedgewitch Says:

    So so sad and true, Karin. The metaphor is heartbreaking.

  5. This is grips me by the throat… For some reason this one gripped me the most:
    the words are short words, words that fit into
    a small palm,

  6. It’s a beautiful exercise to try and put oneself into the eyes/mind of a child–something we should all do from time to time.

  7. Brendan Says:

    Very deft and difficult the work here, drawing out the parallel by watching a child struggle to explain a cat’s death, and by doing so take that “rifled” page (NRA, take note) and say simply, “You read” — which is both a simple realization that a child knows, and handing the page to the world and saying, you read. You explain.

  8. Kerry O'Connor Says:

    This gives me goose flesh. Such a significant poem, Karin. So many thoughts fan through my head as I read it. The final movement is heart-rending, especially for me. So many times in my career, I have been choked up by a story I am reading to my class and I have hand the book to a student and said, You read.

  9. Jim Says:

    There are some things we cannot protect our children from. The death of an animal I’ve experienced to some extent. Our GD knew, the question was, ‘is Amber in Heaven now?’ But she did not see the dying nor the dead cat. She was told.
    Also, I think they don’t put the same value on an insect as they do an animal.

  10. Rommy Says:

    A chest too small for grief it must bear…such a perfect description

  11. M Says:

    elegant, k, and makes me think this could be part of a prose piece. ~

  12. The comparisons within the poem are perfect and terribly sad. Reading your note makes the whole thing even more painful.

  13. Obama’s announcement (and tears) were mild and yet they got such a strong reaction from the usual quarters. Your poem made me think of how far do we have to go before we realise that guns… yes… they kill?

    Greetings from London.

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