Jan/Feb 2020 Poetry

In My Arms

by Jayne Marek

Borrowed image

In My Arms

I kept the X-ray of one of our cats which
I admire for the transparency of flesh

rendered in shadowscale by the radiation,
the film plate revealing the interferences

of ghostly organs and bits of dust shining
in his fur, as if he moved through this world

attracting hidden stars from the mundane
and no doubt crumb-ridden rugs of our home

where he would stretch like this in the sun
or, at night, in lightspill from the outdoor

porch lamp that shone through glass panels:
silly to lie there at night on the cold hallway

and in the unwarming porch light: probably
he lay there remembering those years of our life

in an apartment that did not receive direct sunlight
during winter, a time of longing for him:

he gazed out windows and sliding doors toward
the occasional winter sun nipping the tips

of ripples on the retaining pond
behind those buildings: there were ducks

who dove in the pond unless it froze,
who swam into and out of the light:

the X-ray revealed no obvious blockage
in the cat and I was fascinated to observe

his anatomical processes, the condyles,
the feathery clouds of gray body matter

thickening around doubled bones, fanned
ribs, the impossible fence of backbone

with its hooked vertebrae, the faint wings
of his scapulae, as if the cat in one of its lives

millions of years ago had learned to fly
in cloudy light like the silvery emulsion

of this image: his skull had large deep orbits,
the eyes invisible, invisible ears: an X-ray

shows what is deep but does not record all
things crucial for cats to be catlike:

his body extended to the parameters
of the horizontal axis, as he, unsedated

and curious, watched lamps above his body
and perceived the hum of the machine

like a purr, as cats purr sometimes when
they are nervous, the lights that probed

his depths and showed nothing wrong
as he stretched out like a swimmer on the exam

table in the vertical attention of light: and light
moves down the water column in the unknowable

vastness of oceans, the water column itself
an imagination borne of curious science,

a concept of visible echoes, sonar with its
longitudinal reach that passes like a kind hand

over the bodies of biomasses, diatoms, algae, fish,
bubbles sustaining themselves under pressure

as they drift down toward opacity
where light becomes dream: as with

my own X-ray of a fracture that traces its one
crooked line along the same gray shimmer

of bones and indistinct body, as if I, like the cat,
like the pelagic creatures of sea levels and sea floor,

were captured in the flash that I hold now: here
is proof that the cat who now is gone had lived once,

that I am here and lived once, that technology
of both curiosity and production of indissoluble

materials lives on, that the ocean of our forebears
has lived once but may not forever


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