bonkers / tethers / by Laura Kochman

[B asks, when I explain what I'm going to write about: is that really a ritual? And I'm not sure, but I think that thinking about one's repeated actions in the context of ritual is useful. For me, a ritual is a repeated action imbued with meaning.]

Every twelve hours, since November 2015, I have given my cat four pills. Every twelve hours, his heart needs medicine that regulates blood flow, musculature, heart rate, lung drainage. If you met him, you'd probably never know.

[at this moment, the alarm on my phone goes off and I stop writing to give my cat the aforementioned four pills]

Every twelve hours, I have to think about mortality. Every twelve hours, I plead with my cat, remind him that it's good for him, kiss his forehead between each pill, stroke his throat—it's spell-like.

[Vlad forgives me instantly, climbs into my lap and purrs across my wrists while I type.]

It drives me nuts, this mystery of materiality. Everyone knows Walt Whitman says we contain multitudes, and that is just bonkers. Why are we tethered to ourselves? Why is my sweet cat tethered to this malfunctioning heart? Why am I tethered to this cat? So many writers that I love are interested in the idea of expressing the inexpressible, of reaching toward that which cannot be known, and me too, me too, but what if you have to do it every twelve hours and what if it's not your philosophy but your cat?

Liquids like water and blood will fill        their small containers / take
shape / as though / bodies of water
were not bounded

When I speak

for my own small body that sleeps
on the coast of my body / it was yours

[Does a ritual need to be chosen?]

[As if I had a choice.]

Language works for me when it comes at me slanted, when it's not quite on the mark. If poetry were just the exact replica of meaning, what point would there be? To get at the inexpressible, you can't quite express it, but leave a door open. No exact match between material and immaterial. A space for the leap, for the act of believing in it.