“Tree Rings,” “The White Cat,” and “Goodbyes”

In Issue 78 by Cami DuMay

Tree Rings

My skin told me first, when I saw his picture. The cold memory of touch

a frantic messenger, almost swifter

than the optic nerve. My body remembers.

So I got into the shower, ran it scalding, breathed

the vapor like medicine, the mist a place to lose myself,

and the heat thinned my skin, showed me the lace of collagen

scars that he may as well have carved, the body

remembers.

I wonder,

if you lifted the ax, and chopped me down, would you see in my bones

the circles of the story, the concentric record

of the lean years, drought and cataclysm,

the forest-fire cautery of mortal wounds.

Would the space between the rings show you

this hunger: the body just a vessel

for the sap of aching.

The White Cat

After Mary Oliver’s “The Black Snake”

It’s like Mary said. Because when that white cat

trundled on his young legs over the asphalt

and the car could not swerve—

death, that is how it happens.

Mother had been driving the three of us to school

and all of a sudden, at the sight of the white lump in the road ahead,

the car was filled with wailing

as if we, too,

were dying. We knew it was him,

who other

than our little white cat?

She brought us

—shaking, heaving—  back home.

I walked down our endless driveway,

with a plastic grocery bag crushed in my small fist

like a bruising flower, pieced my way along the shoulder

of that deadly road.

I looked long at his useless skull, half collapsed over his blue eyes,

his whiskers lying flat against his cheek, his clean feet

folded neatly, his lucent fur making him

a ghost already, my last memory of him smeared

into the asphalt, irreconcilable.

His body, like cold water, poured into the bag

a horrid weight with no one left to carry it

as the great cars rushed past us like mere exhalations.

I returned cautiously, one sorry step at a time,

careful with the bag, wary of the cars,

too naïve to wonder how it would be

to stride forward into the dark— weightless, dashing, madly

my own splendid light.

Goodbyes

I pull my jacket tighter

and imagine my cold lips against his, his the colder—

while my hands grasp for his,

finding only thin bones clattering in my palms.

I mouth the words

of a song he used to sing, see the ghosts

rise from my mouth into the night

like prayers ascending.

The moonlight fills my eyes like water

and I wonder with rising panic

how any light will find him where he is,

whatever we call it, oblivion,

and will he be truly in darkness. Can I

go with him.

About the Author

Cami DuMay

Cami DuMay is an undergraduate at UC Davis, pursuing a degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing. Her work has appeared in Equatorial Magazine, Hare’s Paw Literary Journal, and Moonstone Press. She writes about myriad aspects of life, from intimacy and trauma to nature and insects, but most often comes back to an intersection of magic and pain which is grounded in the everyday.

Read more work by Cami DuMay .