Elegy For The Cat 'Tibby'

In the end your nine lives
were not enough.
One by one they reduced you
to the final one
against which there was neither
cunning nor wisdom enough
to protect you;
there was only your last life left
to be taken.

Nine years old
and I loved you as if my life depended
on it. It did
but in ways I could not then suspect:
you were my sick, my dying cat
to whose aid I called all the saints of heaven
who one by one refused you
until I even bargained with the devil
for your life.

But prayers and pacts, a neighbour's advice,
none of it worked.
Daily you weakened to the disease
which claimed you that dreaded word
my parents whispered to each other
though I'd had the same disease at seven-
why then could you not recover?
Was love not strong enough
to clean your bones and make you whole
when once it had reopened tombs
to let long-dead men walk again?

I remember the last day most of all
"Dying is worse than death", they told me,
"after that there is peace".
The first death, the first lie,
these are the facts you always remember
and that cruelty I live with yet-
my father made me drown you.

copyright 2001Martin Burke
Martin Burke:

"...these pieces, whenever I handle them, cause a little turbulence in me. Which raises the 'problem' of a bio. Normally I would say a little about myself - that I am Irish, that I have been living in Belgium for twenty years and follow this with a list of publishing credits. But in the present instance this seems too little and too much, an evasion, if you will, of more deeply rooted facts which can only be handled by poetry.

The process out of which these poems arose is an on-going one. Though it is also true to say that resolution, however partial and in whatever degree, is usually less dramatic than the original crisis. And so poetry can cope with the dramatic, but until there is further more deep-rooted resolution prose will lag a long way behind.

I will leave it up to you to extract what you will from this explanation; so that it might become less an evasion and more a circle about the core. This is not a refusal on my part to comply with your request [for a bio] but a means of extracting the essence of the situation."
      - Martin Burke

Martin's poem
A Walled Garden: Seven Fragments