Sunday, April 23, 2023

Zero at the Bone

[all photographs: Bronwyn Lloyd]

i.m. Zero Tolerance Lloyd-Ross
(c. November 2007-21st April 2023)

We're devastated by the loss of our delightful companion Zero, who left this world - hopefully for a better one - on Friday.

I don't really have any words to express how much she's meant to us over the fifteen and a bit years we were privileged to have her with us. Instead, I thought I'd put up some photos of her over the course of her life, together with a few poems I wrote about her during this time.

Hail and farewell, beloved friend. We'll never stop missing you.

Zero at the bone

The dark looniness
of your leaping
worries me

no pause to reflect
furry paws

food comfort sleep
combine in
strange parentheses

(just like the town
they found you in

post-Xmas traffic)
beating up
poor Smudge

before you’d met us
now hounding

forgiving? maybe

roving emblem
of desire

claws outspread

This is an early piece, written shortly after she first came to us. She was certainly a very spirited kitten! Later on she calmed down a little, but she never ceased to have strong views on a number of issues. It first appeared in the anthology below:

Our Own Kind: 100 New Zealand poems about animals. Ed. Siobhan Harvey (Auckland: Godwit, 2009): 67-68.

Zero is lying down today

but little specks of blood
on the bedspread
make me think

she may have run into
one of her twin nemeses
last night

a big fat greedy
green-collared glutton

or Brindle
a raccoon-tailed

each of whom
sneaks in the back door
several times a day

to eat her food
she jumps out
hisses at them

but is only a little cat
once or twice we’ve seen
them ganging up on her

unable to help her
unless it’s in plain sight
I suppose that’s it

our little cat
so wilful

has become the thing
we most fear losing

yet cannot safeguard
threaten to crush
with the sheer weight

of our love

This poem makes Zero sound like a bit of a victim, and it's true that she was bullied from time to time by larger neighbouring cats. She never provoked these fights, but she always gave as good as she got. Later on most of these cats seem to have moved away, so the last few years of her life were almost entirely free of such squabbles. The poem first appeared in Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2020, edited by Johanna Emeney, and subsequently in the book below:

The Oceanic Feeling. Drawings by Katharina Jaeger. Afterword by Bronwyn Lloyd (Auckland: Salt & Greyboy Press, 2021): 21.

All I want

is for every moment
of every day

to be constant bliss
for Zero

Astyanax cringing
from his daddy’s helmet

safe in his mother’s arms

watching enslaved
as Achilles’ son

throws her baby off
the walls

if only I could wish away
fast cars on the road

trespassing neighbour cats
basements with tempting doors

shut after her
lead nailspoison baits

the loss of a furry friend
is the sack of Troy

by the Greeks

This poem, written late last year, sounds uncomfortably prophetic to me now. The reference to Andromache's baby Astyanax being frightened by his father Hector's plume is from Homer's Iliad [Bk 6, ll.466-502]. His death at the hands of Achilles' son Neoptolemus is reported in Euripides' Trojan Women [ll.719-25]. The last two lines are a paraphrase of the quote below:
Someone has said that the death of a mouse by cancer is the whole sack of Rome by the Goths
- Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier (1915)

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