“Why the Bobcat Returned” by Craig van Rooyen

Craig van Rooyen


That’s the reason, my dear captain, for my strange melancholia.
—Federico García Lorca

After eight years, she’s lost all memory
of wildness—knowing only the occasional sparrow-flutter
in her water trough.
So, ear tufts in front like a blind man’s palms,
she leaves through the careless mesh gap
to find what she doesn’t know
she’s been missing.
Under rust-riddled metro bridges,
down H-street empty as Monday morning
before first light, somewhere in her brainstem
a Texas prairie love-wrestling the wind.
Instead, a sweatered sausage dog squats
under the loop of its leash, quivering to move
its bowels in the cold. Its owner
calls her in, reads the melancholy
in her eyes as menace.
Men with nooses are deployed.
Thirteen schools shut doors for recess,
three thousand noses press
up against classroom glass.
She keeps moving through the open spaces
that were only echoed in her cage of years.
Unable anymore to swat small birds
in flight, she feeds on front porch kibbles,
licks smeared sauce from pizza boxes.
I too have walked away when no one looked,
following a frenzy of fireflies
onto an empty playground I remembered
being wild, then this shadow of a swing
clanking up against its pole.

Poets Respond
February 5, 2017

[download audio]


Craig van Rooyen: “When Ollie, the bobcat, returned to the National Zoo in DC earlier this week after being on the lam for a few days, the zoo’s curator of great cats had this to say: ‘I think she wanted to go out, have a little bit of fun, see what it was like on the outside, then I think I’m ready to come back inside now.’”

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