Their companionship, with pieces by Roberta Schine, John Davis and Gary McClain Gannaway.
On this episode, some pieces about pets. First, an excerpt from “Toto and Marithelma” by Roberta Schine.
As soon as I picked up the phone I heard the panic in my friend Marithelma’s voice. “Totó esta enfermo.” “Totó is sick,” she said. “He isn’t eating and he has severe diarrhea. How do I call a Lyft? I have to take him to the hospital right away.” I told her I’d arrange for the ride. It was faster that way.
Totó is a parrot. An eighteen-year-old African Grey Parrot.
An hour later, Marithelma texted me from the Animal Medical Center. Clearly, she was still upset. “Totó has to stay here for at least two nights. He’ll get antibiotics to stop the diarrhea. Tomorrow the exotic animals specialist comes to give him a C-t Scan. But the worst part is he has a heart problem, ‘arrhythmia.’ And they keep saying – over and over – that he can die.”
Then came this: “I never liked that bird.” Followed by: “He bites me and he’s bossy. If I put bird food in his cage he throws it on the floor. So I have to cook for him. And he repeats everything I say but in a mean, ear-piercing voice. My ex bought him for me eighteen years ago at that exotic bird store when it was on Bleecker St. Believe me, if I had known he had such a rotten personality I would have chosen another bird. Still, I feel bad leaving him here. He’s going to be scared. And waking up at dawn without Totó there . . . Well, it’ll be sad.”
A few days later, Totó came home. As soon as Marithelma opened his travel box he flew to her shoulder and began singing – softly. Her messages have lightened up. She’s even able to joke about the situation. “Totito’s caca is normal,” she texted yesterday. “I’m going to call The New York Times.
An excerpt from Totó and Marithelma from the brand new issue of Passager.
John Davis said, “I liked the repeated vowel sound of dog, paws, love in the first line, so I kept playing with them. My black dog was sitting under my writing table. As a boy, I had a black dog named George. The poem presented itself from there.” Here’s his poem “George.”
That black dog was all paws all tongue all teeth and love
tumbling from the cardboard box outside the grocery store.
Of course we named him George. It was Washington’s birthday.
Mother baked cherry pie she fashioned from a can of cherries,
rolled the dough white as the watery sky. All love. George barked,
peed on the carpet. We ate pie with ice cream. Bite by bite,
George gnawed the coffee table. We’ll take him away if he bites you.
He bit me. I hid the bites with band-aids, tumbled with the dog. My dog.
When he bit the neighbor girl, George was taken away for training.
For weeks for months through tulip blooms, roses, the end of school,
I wanted George to chase balls, run through sprinklers with me.
But George wasn’t coming back. Mother said it with a dish towel
slapped over her shoulder. Smoking a cigarette, she told me
to take out the trash as if I could stuff love into a corrugated can,
mash it down with coffee grounds and cantaloupe, put a lid on it,
wait for the garbage man to haul it away. You’re only ten once
in your life. You wait for summer: popsicles, cut-offs, bare feet,
a sky frosted blue as beach glass. I didn’t wait all summer for George
to bounce with sloppy paws onto my bed, but I talked with the neighbor girl’s
brother years later, after she killed herself. The dog had never bitten her as my mother
had thought, my mother, who would die of lung cancer. How many cigarettes
did she smoke, then cringe watching me learn to lose at love?
I remember this – the sour smoke, moths banging against the porch light,
the rain of late summer in a sky so dark and fluffy
I might have snuggled in, rubbed its puffed-up ears and neck.
John Davis’s poem “George” from Passager Issue 58.
Gary McClain Gannaway said his poem “Morning Ritual” arose from his interest in Zen Buddhism and from looking for what William Blake referred to as “a world in a grain of sand.”
For several weeks after the dog died,
He continued the morning ritual,
Emptying and filling the oversized silver water bowl.
He filled it at the kitchen sink
Where his father would have stood
Had his father not been dead
Much longer than the dog.
But before the filling came the emptying.
With the gracefulness of a discus throw,
He would send the water out into the early morning air
And watch the drops hold there in one pure, perfect moment.
Then all the water would fall to earth,
And he never knew that that moment was perfect, too.
“Morning Ritual,” Gary McClain Gannaway from the current Passager, Issue 72.
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For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne, and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.