“And If She Dies Before I Wake” and “My Cat Always Hears My Writer’s Block”

Poetry by Jenny Keto

“And If She Dies Before I Wake” and “My Cat Always Hears My Writer’s Block”

And If She Dies Before I Wake

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my Soul to keep,

and if I die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my Soul to take.

Mother changed the last words

of my nightly prayer in attempt

to stave me from the futility of

how we all end—in an attempt

to save me from her. I can’t

remember what snug-as-a-bug,

happily-ever-after ending she

Now I Layed Me every night

of my childhood. I can’t

remember, because I was raised

by a night mother who lived Down

to Sleep. I was raised by a

nightmare who gassed herself

in our locked car garage

door Down to Sleep—overdosed

Down to Sleep-walk her days

away—overdosed Down to

Sleep and sleep and sleep in

hopes she’d stop her breathing.

I was raised by a ghost mother

who prayed she would die before

she woke, but she always woke,

and I grew up in the wake of

what was left of my mother.

I don’t remember what ending

she made up for me—all I can

remember is how much I prayed

she would wake up and be my

mother again—all life and breath

and soul of her. I wonder now, if

my prayer went with that last imagined

line I can’t remember anymore.

My Cat Always Hears My Writer’s Block

the way God knows prayer.

She mews, and nudges,

and chews on the end of my

stubborn pen—this animal

who has never required

a single uttered word from

me. All she needs begins

with a simple sound

called meow. Then,

in the same unspoken

moment, I answer

soundless

with my palm of love. I pet,

and hold, and breathe into

her fur, and the purity

of her purr. She instantly

answers what I am

afraid of—whatever, whenever

I’m afraid.

With her, it’s as if my fear

was a simple question

quelled with her purr and

my caress that together

say Yes. Yes. Yes—as if she were

my cradled hands and I was

the book I finally write. She thumbs

my pages with silk and trill,

cover to cover, and the words

hum a halo from our being.

As for the fear, when she silently

reads me I forget for a moment—

I remember for a moment.

About the Author

Jenny Keto

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Jenny Keto is a poet, a psychiatric nurse, a former actress, a proud Austinite, and an origami enthusiast. She's counting on a wish after 1,000 cranes folded, and 1,000 poems written. Much of her poetry grapples with the space between the heart and the intractable mind and has appeared in Cathexis Northwest Press, Déraciné Magazine, Francis House, The Conglomerate, wards, Broken City, and Visitant.