'Every night I tell her about the fish who died for her'

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We've been selecting poems for this column for more than ten years and I can't remember ever publishing a poem about a cat. But here at last is a cat, a lovely old cat. Ron Koertge lives in California, and his most recent book of poems is Vampire Planet: New & Selected Poems, from Red Hen Press. 


by Ron Koertge

No one would take her when Ruth passed.
As the survivors assessed some antiques,
I kept hearing, "She's old. Somebody
should put her down."

I picked her up instead. Every night I tell her
about the fish who died for her, the ones
in the cheerful aluminum cans.

She lies on my chest to sleep, rising
and falling, rising and falling like a rowboat
fastened to a battered dock by a string. 


American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem ©2016 by Ron Koertge, 'Lily,' from Vampire Planet: New & Selected Poems, (Red Hen Press, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Ron Koertge and the publisher. Introduction ©2016 by the Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-06.



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Harry O'Neill

Sun 27th Nov 2016 19:57

I Iike the way the first line of the second section `picks up` the last line of the first....also the humorous contrast of `died` and cheerful...but most of all the rowboat rising and falling sleep imagery of the last.

The piece has a `taking` everyday feel to it.

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Dave Morgan

Mon 21st Nov 2016 18:05

Very simple and touching poem, beautiful structure. Reading this with 14 year old Missie snoring gently next to me, chasing squirrels in her sleep.

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