August 6, 2021
Two Poems - My Father’s Photography and How Cats Give Birth
By Rebecca Ruth Gould
My Father’s Photography
My father liked to photograph the snippet
—not the fullness—
of the instant. On weekends and holidays we
built archives in our basement.
Our darkroom chamber
became an alchemist’s paradise.
Ammonia bleached dark film light.
His gloves were pulled tight.
My plastic-clad wrists were taped
so fluids wouldn't seep in
& damage my childhood skin.
I imitated his every movement.
When we finished, he lifted me
high. I danced like a ballerina,
climbing into the skies. Trouble only came
when I grew up & stopped copying him.
His skin darkened into a sepia tint.
His fists clenched.
Question authority became my mantra.
I no longer admired him.
The negatives began exposing
what he didn’t want to see.
As I approached adulthood,
my father stopped practicing photography.
He disappeared into unknown territory. His art
grew thin. His bones grew weary. He sold his
passport, became a non-citizen,
hid from the camera as if it might curse him.
I think he must be practicing necromancy—
splicing a partial truth, mixing in a fantasy
—blocking out every inconvenient reality—
in some foreign, mystical country.
How Cats Give Birth
As soon as they reach the ripe old age of six
months, they’ve matured into women of childbearing age,
whose bodies shelter multitudes.
Kittens crawl out of the cat’s vagina:
aliens limping for the first time on earth.
The mother miraculously knows what to do.
She rips open the amniotic sac,
presses her babies to her breast,
sits them on top of her as they suckle:
mother to daughter.
Chest to chest.
The smell is as unmistakable as my beloved whose sheets I refuse to remove.
(May his scent forever haunt these empty rooms.)
As the milk flows,
she shelters her kittens within the warmth of her tits.
Although her blind babies cannot see,
their fur nestles against the one
place on earth they can call home.
Like them, I know the one soul on earth
whose body is my abode
whose eyes lit my world
like a scorching fire
until even I—childless—could see
the millennial wisdom of cats
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