Ditto

I.
one morning in my second year of teaching
from under the sports equipment trailer
a pale cream streak of fluff
shot out and climbed my leg
mewing
I put him in a box
he mewed all day non stop
I’m not sure what the children learned that day
except maybe to be kind to strays
II.  when you are part of a couple
and have pets
most of them are both of yours
Ditto was always mine alone
in older age he was diabetic
I gave him his insulin shot daily
he always turned his head back
to look at me
and opened his mouth
in a silent mew
III. dogs are not the only beings
to recognize the sound
of their master’s approach
Ditto would, if outside, come running
when I drove down the street
and so one day, when I was stressed
tired
lonely
coming home to an abusive wife
none of which is an excuse
I was in my head and not paying attention
and pulled fast into the driveway
when I couldn’t find him a couple of hours later
I went outside and heard him mewing
from under the car
with a dislocated hip
for which there is no real recovery for felines
from there he declined quickly
I knew that night I had hit him coming home
and told no one for years
I have been haunted by shame and sorrow
this poem is my exorcism
IV.
Ditto died long before I left my marriage
for several years
there was a ghost cat
that felt like him jumping on the bed
every few nights
His ghost is gone, or maybe
he jumps on my ex-wife’s bed
emerging from the urn in her closet
that I gave her back when I left
I am only occasionally sorry
I did not fight her
for more money, or more accountability
but I miss my ghost cat
few people understand
when I say I regret not fighting
for my cat’s ashes
but those that do
have deep space in my heart

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