Friday, May 23, 2014

I Wish I'd Written This

Wilderness Lost
(for Bramble, my cat)

By May Sarton (1912-1995)

She was the wilderness in me
The secret solitary place
Where grow the healing herbs.
We had recognized each other
Years ago; the bond was deep.
Now since her death
Two seasons ago
The landscape is ghostly.
No small black and gold panther
Steals through the long grasses
And pounces on a mouse.
No one curls up on the terrace wall
Gathering the day together.
No round shadow sits on my sill
Late at night, waiting to be let in,
And then in one jump comes to lie beside me,
A long pillow of purrs along my back.

Distant, passionate one,
I miss you in my bones.
I miss you in my heartbeat.
I have mourned you for nine months.
What does not leave me
Is your great luminous eye
Open to its golden rim,
The darkness so dark, the deepness so deep there
I wanted to go with you to death
But in a few seconds
The needle did its good work.
You had gone-
And in a new time
I grow old without you.

It is all very still now,
The grief washed out.

(from The Silence Now, 1988)

Someone I know on facebook lost a beloved cat to cancer.  By way of condolence, another friend posted a link to this poem. I hadn't read it before, but I have a cat with cancer and although it is slow-growing, I know I'll lose her sooner rather than later. She is elderly, so the vet and I have agreed there won't be any invasive, uncomfortable procedures to try and prolong her life when the time comes.

And of course, I have lost other beloved cats in the past. Then, or now, or later, I could wish to have written this poem that says it so well. When the time comes, I shall no doubt write poems of my own, as I have done on other such occasions. They will be my poems, saying what comes to me to be said — and I hope they may be as true and beautiful as this one, which must surely speak to all cat-lovers.

May Sarton was born Eleanore Marie Sarton. You probably don't have to be told she was a well-known novelist too, and most famous of all for her journals. I expect plenty of you are already familiar with her work. She is now recognised as an important American writer. Though I've known of her for a long time, she's someone I've missed reading so far. I'm giving myself a nudge to catch up soon.

The most comprehensive online biography of her seems to be this one. As far as I can gather, when Sarton decided to make writing her career, she was always able to support herself by it. A glance at her bibliography shows that she was very prolific. Her Amazon page includes novels, poetry, memoirs, journals, children's books and volumes of letters, and is actually five pages. If I'm going to catch up, I'd better start now!

P.S. Heidi has pointed out in the comments that submissions are now open for the May Sarton New Hampshire poetry prize. I do like to be topical in my posts if applicable, but this is a coincidence — and a very happy one. For details click this link.

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. Rosemary, this is glorious! I have to admit I didn't read the beginning title/author that closely and thought this was a love poem to a woman :-D When I was little I had a cat who always slept at my feet, I wouldn't go to sleep until I felt her soft landing on my bed. Love that line "a long pillow of purrs along my back". I'm sorry to hear about your kitty. Hugs <3

  2. What a wonderful share, Rosemary. I have always liked May Sarton's writing, but do not remember ever having read this poem. It definitely captures just how it is when one says good-bye to one's beloved animals. I understand the depth of sadness the poet expresses. Until a person has lost a beloved pet of their own, I don't think they understand the depth of sadness that can be felt for a long time.....

  3. this was a very good poem, written so fondly for her pet cat. I, myself am a budding poet with a published book called The PASEFIKA Beat on sale at Amazon and to read about her extensive bibliography is just inspiring. thanks for the share!!! I've found myself another literary idol. Mary Sarton.

  4. What an incredible poem...this is exactly how I feel about my beloved corgi who passed last year. <3

  5. Oooo. Thank you, Rosemary. In decades past I read May Sarton's journals and novels, but not her poems. As I live and breathe, I have time to explore them. This is beyond beautiful. She KNOWS.

  6. Ohhhh....this is a purrfect depiction of the love of our furry babies and how much they mean to us. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  7. This poem speaks the feelings in my heart. A wonderful choice, Rosemary. I still mourn Pup, three and a half years later. There are some creatures no other can replace. I am sorry about your cat, and glad she will be kept comfortable until the end.

  8. Coincidentally, I just read that submissions are being accepted for the May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize.

    1. Many thanks for the heads-up, Heidi. I've added a note, with link, to my post.

  9. Rosemary, this was especially poignant because my friend, a fellow "cat person," had to make the sad but compassionate journey to the vet's for the "final healing" of her cat, who had cancer that traveled to her brain. Our cat had the same condition... and we made the same decision. I love the writing, the "Rainbow Bridge," and know that we will see Missy again. Cats have else can you explain their love and understanding of our slightest ills?

    One thought, about as a good reference... will email you.

    Thank you for shining the light on May Sarton. I had never read her work and was so glad to see this poem. Rosemary, you are especially good at ferreting out the poets who need to be seen, those who write of the human condition. I'm so grateful. Peace, Amy

  10. I was the one taking the cat to the vet, twice. To this day I can still see the look in their eyes. I missed them for a long time after that.


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