imageHow to Hydrate Kate
Dorothy Gilbert

It’s easy. The vet
shows you. At home
you use the ironing board. Hold the cat
by her withers. Check the drip-set
one last time. Are there bubbles in the flask?
Is the line clear of air? The needle sterile?
Test all attachments, check the calibrations,
then, quickly, plunge the needle in loose skin
at her shoulder.

You’ve got
to do it, for her old no-good kidneys,
her dirty blood, poisoned by her body.
This cat’s feisty, but she won’t complain;
her memory’s too sharp, of pain
and this brief ease.

You’ve got
the news on the radio. While the animal
becomes a water-bag, you hear
what’s current. Old age is wasting
your generation fast, your singers and senators
crashing and fading. Eastern Europe,
like a blood-soaked map, disintegrates; East Africa
grinds bones to sand. In Sacramento,
in Albany, on the Legislature floor,
they’ve got fist-fights. Holes slowly widen
in the atmosphere; Navajo miners die,
young men, from the uranium we needed
for the atom bomb.

You stand
there listening, saving a cat’s life.
You’re finished. You free her. Already her fluids settle.
For now, you’ve washed away the viciousness
determined to happen.