Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Elegy for Manfred Mystery Mann - From the Cold Dirt Press Archives

The underdog has always held a soft spot in my heart. To me, that includes all types of animals but especially felines. Loving special-needs animals further marginalizes my life, I suppose. I am drawn to shelter sweethearts that are typically overlooked. One of those kitties was named Mystery, a shadowy gray Russian Blue/Siamese mix I adopted in 2010. His elegant nose and world-weary eyes drew me in. When I held him, his disposition was utterly mellow as if we had known each other for ages.

The shelter workers informed me that he had previously been adopted out but returned because he was not playful enough. Maybe those people were expecting a puppy instead. That sealed the deal and Mystery was mine. Firstly, his name was changed to Manfred Mann after one of my favorite 60s groups.  Poor Manny had a misshapen spine from some trauma, perhaps hit by a car, and he was suffering from an intestinal parasite that left his body emaciated and twisted. Because of nerve damage, his claws did not retract. Later I determined that he was also deaf.

Joe, the other special-needs cat who occupied my home was somewhat perturbed by the newcomer and it took six weeks of gradual exposure to approach a level of accord between the two. They grew to be brothers with occasional nose bumps. To his credit, Joe seemed to sense Manny's infirmity and toned down his linebacker-like behavior. He even allowed Manny to eat from his bowl first once in a while.

Manny thrived on his diet of human-grade food and entertainment was provided by watching the antics of his goofy brother Joe. Manny was always serenely perched, cuddling his stuffed purple bunny toy. Unfortunately, he developed a cancer that felled him too quickly and weeks ago he succumbed to a brain tumor. The loss felt unbearable. Our two years together seemed cruelly short. Joe searched for Manny for days in closets and corners during feeding time. We still miss him tremendously. Perhaps another kitty will eventually join this dynamic, heaven knows that shelters are filled beyond capacity. I fully recommend adopting instead of shopping for animal companions to share your life. 

A good friend shared this poem  by Edward Gardner "Elegy to my cat" based on Gray's "Elegy" and it served to remind me of Manny's true beauty.

And art thou gone, associate of my youth?
Snatch'd from a faithful friend that lov'd thee well?
Nought could avail thy goodness nor thy truth,
Thou pattern for good cats, alas! farewell!

 Yet though thy limbs by death's cold hand are laid,
Ah! numb'd and stiff in yonder little grave,
Thy dear remains the willow-boughs shall shade,
And bending o'er them sadly shall they wave.

Think not because the gloomy tyrant's dart
Has pierc'd thee through and stopp'd thy panting breath,
Esteem for thee can leave my grateful heart,
Or love be buried in the grave of death.

No, thou poor puss! whilst mem'ry claims a tear,
That faithful chrystal drop for thee shall flow
Incessant flow — and wet thy little bier,
While keen reflection wakes the throb of woe.

For sure thy gentle heart thy master lov'd
With love as pure as ever cat could feel;
Thy graceful pur how often have I prov'd
Return so grateful for the daily meal.

But now no more thy frolic tricks delight
Before the sparkling faggot on the hearth;
No more thy gambols chear the winter's night—
Ah no! thou liest beneath yon sod of earth.

No more with goodness sweet my STELLA'S hand
Shall stroke thy down or pat thy little head;
No more, as oft it wont at her command,
Is for thy morning meal the table spread.

Thy plaintive mew no more the heart shall melt,
Struck mute by death the musick of thy tongue;
Ah me! what thrills my raptur'd bosom felt,
When thro' the air thy midnight love-note rung.

I heard, alas! thy piercing, dying moan,
Saw the dim'd lustre of thy once-bright eye;
I saw thee heave, alas! the last, last groan—
Oh! echoed by my bosom's heart-felt sigh.

Who now the dainties of my board shall guard,
Who now the nimble-footed mouse shall seize?
No more thou lap'st the milk, the sweet reward
For many a well-sav'd pye and good old cheese.

The wily sparrow too thy wonted prey,
Fearless may now his daring path pursue;
Fearless may chirp upon the leafy spray,
And meet no rude assault, my puss, from you.

Ah! do not triumph in her early fate,
Nor pour the song of gladness o'er her grave;
Know, thoughtless birds, that surely soon or late,
No flight of yours shall from my fury save.

The well-aim'd tube shall stop your fluttering breath—
Oblations grateful to my cat ye go:
The sweet revenge shall soothe her shade in death—
The sweet revenge shall mitigate my woe.

Then puss farewell! and through the world so wide,
May every worthy cat be lov'd like thee;
And may my worthiest friend if often try'd
Be found, ah feeling rare! to love like thee.

It's a comfort looking at photographs of Manny and I enjoy sharing them. 

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