Petting Sammy

Petting Sammy

You have begun to come into my room at night,
often carrying a thick book,
one in a series you are reading,
or sometimes a comic, Baby Blues or Garfield.
It took me a little while to give up my solitude,
having just gotten your brother to bed,
another brother waiting in the wings
who needs help with homework.
These few minutes were a window
I looked forward to perching in,
a pause between bell rings
for playground duty when the yard was clear.

But it has taken great courage for you to come here,
so quietly you arrived one evening,
without inquiry or announcement,
and I in turn did not welcome or object.
That is how it is with us,
each preferring silence and subterfuge,
we have gone hours driving together,
the space a sweet swath
and you angry, have vetoed dinner,
put yourself to bed early,
while I looked past you when I walked by your room.

Tonight our kitty, Sammy, joins us.
She is the one concession
I bought for you and your brother,
feeling guilty you arrived after
your older siblings’ menagerie,
snakes and rats, dogs, horses, rabbits,
all gone or given away.

Sammy is delicate and dark like you,
fine-boned and mannered,
for a time we all doted on her,
she enjoyed a homecoming you and your brother,
who arrived with tantrums and torrents didn’t enjoy.
But once grown, she became my cat,
the default one who paid attention.

You arrive tonight without a book
and I feel a flash of irritation,
my cell phone posed to play Scrabble online,
I am craving the idle in parking lot
the school bus drivers enjoy before kids pile on.
But kitty arrives and lays between us.

We pet her together, marveling her nose,
her regal air, how serene and soft she is,
we trade a few stories of her independence.
I look at your equally noble face,
your black curly hair I have tussled, but not caressed.
it is the closest I have felt to you,
twelve now, home for five years.
Her body is a conduit,
with each stroke I confer all the ways
I haven’t been able to mother you,
and I see in your soft brown eyes, love for me,
you aren’t able to speak.