Old Pet

by A.F. Moritz

Come, my body, leap up, while you still can,
onto my knees, into my lap. Come let me pet you,
comfort you and take comfort while there’s time,
while you last. How calm you are: content, it seems,
with your infirmity, your age, in the almost changeless
youth of your soft hide, your pelt and shy quiet,
expressionless as you huddle and crouch for this leap
you can still make, though it’s grown great, this petty
piece of your young and many springs.

Why did I never, body, cherish you enough?
Although I thought I was spending all my minted hours
on you, till I’d cry at the long waste of time, chained
by eyes and tongue, the ends of every extremity,
to your pleasure. Now I can’t recall ever once
kissing you, lying locked in you, deep as I want.

You’ll die, it won’t be long, body, swiftly
in animal nobility – how you wear your decline unnoticing,
the way a poor man walks in his only shirt to work –
and then, without you, in what mud of my own
making will I linger, falling apart? Purr now
and fuse your old pleasure into crotch of my torso,
palm of my hand, vision of eyes and sag of diaphragm
inseparably; they’re yours. Give me your indifference
that a once forest-wide range comes down
to couch and counter now, and this lap. Give me
your unrepentant having-known
a more-than-ant’s-intimacy with the grass,
a more-than-god’s-innocence in the hunt,
a greater-than-winged-agility in branches
and light. Leap up, body, while you still can,
let me finally hold you, feel you, close enough.

Notes on the Poem

In "Old Pet", AF Moritz presents an aging narrator ruefully contemplating declining physical vigour. Does the poem's main analogy - that the body is a creaky companion animal - make the process seem more tolerable, or less so? The intermittent awkwardness of separating oneself from and addressing one's own body seems to suggest that even at this point in his life, the narrator is still not entirely content and at home in his own skin. While the first line "Come, my body, leap up, while you still can" is a positive enough exhortation (although "while you still can" is a bit ominous), the next line "onto my knees, into my lap. Come let me pet you" is a little unwieldy, if instead of a geriatric feline, you find yourself picturing the narrator leaping into his own lap. And perhaps that's the point. Just as the analogy does not sit entirely comfortably ("chained / by eyes and tongue" might or might not hurt), the wistful remorse that "a once forest-wide range" is now diminished is an uneasy feeling too, whether it is for an actual old pet or for onself.

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