Welcome to where I am, where my kitchen's always messy, a pot's (or a poet) always about to boil over, a dog is always begging to be fed. Drafts of poems on the counter. Windows filled with leaves. Wind. Clouds moving over the mountains. If you like poetry, books, and music--especially dog howls when a siren unwinds down the hill-- you'll like it here.


MY NEW AUTHOR'S SITE, KATHRYNSTRIPLINGBYER.COM, THAT I MYSELF SET UP THROUGH WEEBLY.COM, IS NOW UP. I HAD FUN CREATING THIS SITE AND WOULD RECOMMEND WEEBLY.COM TO ANYONE INTERESTED IN SETTING UP A WEBSITE. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT MY NEW SITE TO KEEP UP WITH EVENTS RELATED TO MY NEW BOOK.


MY NC POET LAUREATE BLOG, MY LAUREATE'S LASSO, WILL REMAIN UP AS AN ARCHIVE OF NC POETS, GRADES K-INFINITY! I INVITE YOU TO VISIT WHEN YOU FEEL THE NEED TO READ SOME GOOD POEMS.

VISIT MY NEW BLOG, MOUNTAIN WOMAN, WHERE YOU WILL FIND UPDATES ON WHAT'S HAPPENING IN MY KITCHEN, IN THE ENVIRONMENT, IN MY IMAGINATION, IN MY GARDEN, AND AMONG MY MOUNTAIN WOMEN FRIENDS.




Wednesday, February 24, 2010

SOPHIE, by Lisa Parker


I met Lisa Parker the first year I taught at Hindman Settlement School. Right away I knew that she was "the real thing," a poet who plumbed her place (the Virginia mountains) and her place in it with passion and intuitive skill. Lisa is also a photographer who's had a show in NYC. She was living there during the 9/11 attacks and immediately went to help, being trained in triage. Her first collection will be published soon by Motes Books.

She sent this message via facebook:

I loved your prompt on your blog today and wanted to share with you a poem about my little feral rescue cat, Sophie, who touched me like no other animal I've ever owned. She was living in a storm drain on the govt site where I work and was rescued by a friend when she realized she was pregnant. Four month after my friend rescued her, I took Sophie and one of her kittens, Leo, home with me. She died suddenly after only a year with me and I found myself just utterly devastated. I ended up writing this poem about her and found it more cathartic than anything else I'd ever written. I wanted to share it with you but it was honestly too much of a downer to put on your blog! So I thought I'd send it to you here. I'll send the poem in a separate email as I think it would be too big here. I love your blog, by the way! I read it at work when I have the chance and it's a beautiful reprieve from the world of discontent that overwhelms me some days. It's a beautiful little light in my day, so I thank you for that. xoxo - Lisa"
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SOPHIE

We buried you by half-moon light
in cool October air that steamed
around Dad’s shoulders as he dug
the mulch, dirt and clay, the odd
rock and gnarled root. I dug the last
few inches, still in work shoes, still
in shock to know you lay stiff and quiet
in the passenger seat of my car, wrapped
in a blanket Eric put you in, seatbelted in
as we drove I-95 to Mom and Dad’s house
in the country, a ride I remember only
for the few exit signs I saw without
the blur of tears when my body
forced deep, gasping breaths that slowed
the sobs to a stop, if only for a moment,
if only for that knee-jerk self-preservation
that comes out of nowhere.

We buried you in a garden planted by Dad
who met me at the car that night
with a crushing hug and a Yeah, sweetie,
life sucks sometimes, words I knew
were all he could offer outside the shovel
and fencepost digger I already saw propped
against his boat in the garage.

We buried you in a garden spot they picked
for its loveliness and with a promise
to plant some unique, beautiful flower
over you. Mom, who had never met you,
cried for the loss of anything
that would ruin me so thoroughly
and she whispered toward
your blanketed body as Dad lowered you in,
Thank you for bringing her such joy
and for gentling her the way you did.

By morning, I sat on the porchsteps
picking the caked mud out of my shoes
with the end of a small hickory stick.
Dad watched me from the dining room window
and after a long while, came and draped
his flannel shirt over my shoulders, a quick pat
to my head and a heavy sigh
before he said, It’s chilly out here;
good in the sun, though.

9 comments:

Vicki Lane said...

Beautiful -- loved the turn at the end.

Love hurts.

Charlotte said...

The beautiful frailty of a creature, and the strength it takes to survive loving and then losing them. . .so tender and intimate.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Charlotte, when our Arjun died this summer, we knew it was coming, but I was alone, Jim in Peru, and just kneeling there with him as he breathed his last was almost more than I could bear. Not to mention the awful hours before, when he was constantly barking his death-wails. It is warmer in the sun, as Lisa's dad said. And we finally have to turn and go there.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Okay, I'm crying .....


My old girl Kayla died summer 2008 - it was a year before I spread her ashes. I'd wanted to bury her, but, the ground here in the cove wouldn't take her - the critters would get her - we live near woods and with hard ground and rock....but, I'm glad I cremated her-there was ceremony to this, as well, and what I wish for myself...

you beautiful words inspire our own memories, poignant and real.

Julia Nunnally Duncan said...

I, too, loved the ending. And the father's patting his daughter on the head; I remember my own father doing that to me--how I miss it....

Vagabonde said...

I came to your site from Vicki Lane’s blog. What a sweet poem – anyone who loved a cat will know the feelings which are so well expressed here. I liked the ending too, it is touching. I would be great to have had a dad like this – mine was a strict disciplinarian – he would never have touched my shoulder or said something comforting to me.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Vagabonde, thank you for dropping by. Please visit frequently. My father was a disciplinarian, too, and showing emotion was really difficult for him. In later years he mellowed, but I wish we could have had more warmth from him earlier. He was a son of the Great Depression and felt he had to work constantly to keep his farm and family taken care of.

Jessie Carty said...

such a powerful poem, like others have said, that ending is just amazing.

Lisa Parker said...

I've been out of town and hadn't seen that my poem was published here until just now and wanted to say thank you for all of the good words and feedback. Just as good to hear, though maybe it's not right to admit, is the shared experience of that awful grief of losing an animal you've loved. My good friend Robin recently lost her rescued greyhound and was beyond words with grief over it. When we finally came to the place where we could speak about it, we commiserated over how impossible it was to go back to day to day things, how long it took for any bit of normalcy to come again. In the end, the sun is the only place to go to move forward and my father was right (and yes, a good man for his gentleness). Charlotte is right about the strength it takes to survive loving and losing our animals. Always worth it, but never easy. I'm grateful you shared this, Kay, and I loved reading the other pieces.