The animals slip from life
like loose hair from a braid.

Pearl on the bathroom floor still lifts her head but can’t eat, can’t drink. Nefertiti I have thought of sometimes looking at her, small elegant gray cat with long pointed ears and triangular head. Foundling seventeen years ago, one damaged place in her side where she never could grow more than downy underfur, one gimp leg. Already the fur on her leg has been eaten away, her flanks have collapsed, the frail bone cage of ribs is all that holds her two sides from touching, yet she purrs against my hand.

Outside, through the night, cicadas
chant the seconds, minutes, hours.

In your heaven for cats accept Pearl who loved half-and-half and kippers, who does not fight nor seem to fear her death. Let it happen quickly because her waiting opens out like a desolate gray sea, she cannot get better so let her go forward. Let the wet earth enter her and return her flesh to the roots and stems and leaves of bamboo and privet and wild pink roses. Let the temple of her bones resist a little longer. Yet that too will return to mud and ants, the filaments of roots, then to light, then at last with everything that is, to emptiness.

Her paws curl against each other.
Her hollow belly with the little patch of underfur rises, falls.