by Nancy Eimers
Featured art: A Bird’s-Eye View by Theodore Robinson
My neighbor Lee is calling her cat home again
in a voice high and sweet
up there in the ether where everything is in question.
Back down inside her the urge
is probably to answer the questions herself—
the name of the cat is both question and answer—
or to save time and actually see the cat
come trotting out of the bushes home.
This time of the morning or this time of the afternoon
the questions are all the same question
and the question in a way is rhetorical:
no answer expected, required, or invited.
The cat is not being issued an RSVP.
This is more command than invitation,
the cat must simply produce: itself.
Now. A cat has no choice but to appear
or not in the backyard of this universe.
I know I’ve gotten it wrong, maybe she hopes
to persuade him home with her call-note,
like the vireo’s at the top of the tallest tree:
Here I am. Where are you?
Ether: the element once believed
to fill all space with itself: that is where
the cat is. That is what the cat is:
what they thought
the stars and planets were composed of.
It is something material
and also: it is absence, about as close
to immateriality as we get. Even when present
it is something over the trees
that might disappear behind clouds,
even when it is curled on the rag rug
by the fireplace and my neighbor is tracing
its backbone as if trailing her hand in water.
It is the moon last night too huge and bright
over the grocery store and it is
streetlights going out when the sky
gets bright enough.
How urgently she requires the cat to come home
is another way for her to answer
her own question: that she doubts
is all over her voice. The name
I can’t understand has a “y”
at the end of it, and everything now being queried
—what possible reason, motive, justification for being gone—
hangs in the clear blue sky.
Originally appeared in NOR 5
Nancy Eimers is the author of four poetry collections. Her poems have recently appeared in Crazyhorse, Poetry International, and Gettysburg Review. She teaches Creative Writing at Western Michigan University.