narla walks past the lounge room window in winter sun
as I’m trying to finish a short story feline fluidity now
a disconnected index of tentative movements
her nose is her new eyes but she misjudges jerks
backwards at every sniff the lawn is a featureless wasteland
she zigzags in slowmotion the same ground she once covered
like an arrow. wends her way to the fishpond bumping blinking
into branches. visions of blindness. that night in the shack on
hindmarsh island coming back from the toilet to the bedroom
in the no-moon dark fixed action patterns of habit retracing
steps headbutting strange walls a rat in a maze, cornered until
i realise i’m in the wrong room. the blind man at the bus stop.
watching him through the restaurant window coins falling to
footpath probing the dirty concrete with the backs of his hands.
the fish need not fear. my blind cat’s come to lap their universe.
what is to be done with this decrepitude? is it kinder to end her
life? or must we all accept we’re past our prime
i remember my grandfather watching in awe at boyish
sure-footedness as i rockhop barefoot over the breakwater,
his awe a discarnate nostalgia for muscle-memory.
narla takes one step down from the pond’s rim she extends
her nose several times indecisively pussyfoots air
makes contact with the ground.
my father’s last month in the nursing home. his last chapter.
we had all peeked at the last page.
watching him, sharp acuity dulled, pale ghost of his once-self.
it’s kinder on the birds the mice the insects she’ll no longer
present to me on the coir-mat platter. completely harmless.
her mercury motion solidified and leaden. she crawls into
the watery sun and sleeps as well as she ever did.
leaves the decision to me.
© rob walker
(originally published in The Cortland Review as both a text- and audio-poem, Feb, 2012)
Also in tropeland (Five Islands Press) 2015
Also remixed with music as Narla (with Speck) on ccmixter.org