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Boots Before Us

a sequel to “Shear Wickedness”

The time had come. Poor Boots was sinking low,
and further down no fitting place to know.
Our burden was to fix the bottom floor
and see our old friend gently out the door.
Our goal: to shield him from encroaching pain,
despite ours at not seeing him again.
He slipped away. The emptiness was more
than we had guessed we’d undergo before
the sad event occurred. Why was it so?
Farewell to Boots was, though we didn’t know,
a preview of the coming trip across
the great divide that we approach: the loss
to children and grandchildren will be keen—
so much so that we’re anxious now to screen
our minds from thinking of it. No regret
have we, two thriving, active seniors; yet
we’re struck by Boots’s leave–taking. God knit
up all hearts wounded at our own exit.

.

.

At the Exhibition (Poor Antiques
Among the Valuable)

For poor old folks like us it’s an amusement park.
Once past the gate the “rides” are free: the eye may wander
Where it will, and nobody is going to bark.
But hands are different: merchants sense that you’ve grown fonder
Of their wares, once you decide to pick them up,
And hover—all the more if it’s a fragile cup.

You put it back, perhaps exchange some pleasantries
With that same merchant on the item you admired,
Or think of something else on which to shoot the breeze.
He loves to chat, but fairly glows once you’ve acquired
That certain object—by the ordinary means,
Not those that sometimes lead to … well, unpleasant scenes.

(For if some agent finds that locket in your pocket …
Though true, none treasures it as you do, and its case,
Your case will quite soon find its place on some court’s docket,
With more distress after the trial for you to face,
Because it seems that everywhere people get pissed
If others take their stuff thinking it won’t be missed.)

But soon you find your cash gets you only so far.
Price stickers differ, yet repeat the same old story:
Forget that exquisite Odessan samovar
And all the rest of it—in any category.
The amusement park does have its downside, sad to say.
You leave no poorer than you entered, anyway.

.

.

Julian D. Woodruff, who contributes poetry frequently to the Society of Classical Poets, writes poetry and short fiction for children and adults. He recently finished 2020-2021, a poetry collection. A selection of his work can be read at Parody Poetry, Lighten Up Online, Carmina Magazine, and Reedsy.


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The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments.


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18 Responses

  1. g.KayeNaegele

    Both poems, and the original poem about your beloved “Boots” are very moving. One never realizes it, but life becomes things unimaginable for senior beings, both pets and people; a not often discussed and written about, or addressed socially and medically adequately situation. No one suspects, really what is faced in the future: and the social and cultural changes that progress in the decades, does not prepare one for the possibilities. As a retired nurse, and owner of an old cat, I am very sensitive to the issue, and appreciate your highlighting this issue. GK

    Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Thanks for your thoughtful response, GK. You have a clear view of the issues we face.

      Reply
  2. Brian Yapko

    Julian, this is a heartwarming and moving tribute to the loss of a beloved family member. It is also a melancholy meditation on what it means to age and to begin contemplating mortality, that coming trip across the great divide or, in Shakespearian terms, that “undiscovered country.” This poem is sad and lovely and, although I feel for your loss, I feel better for having read it.

    I also enjoyed “At the Exhibition” which reminds me of many a marketplace where I’ve had to haggle my way through the merchandise. The little hints of kleptomania that you reference made me smile. I hope no one here ends up on some court’s docket! And, curiously, I’ve always wanted a samovar.

    Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Thanks, Brian–glad you enjoyed them. I’m just back from a visit with a daughter in Windsor, CA; a trip to a large antique mall in nearby Sebastopol, where among the curiosities (and even affordable, though I passed) was billed as an “Indian cigar holder”: ca. 1 1/2 ft. long, with a joint at about the 2-3rds point. You learn something new every day.

      Reply
  3. John Creekmore

    I have two cats, ages 12 and 14. In a few years I will be making the same decision that you had to make with Boots. God knows I would not see them suffer, but their passings will leave a void in the lives of my wife and myself.

    Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Mr. Creekmore,
      I’m sure my thought won’t be much consolation, but your devotion is clear and has been a blessing to both your elder citizens, just as they have been to you.

      Reply
  4. Sally Cook

    Thank you so much for your sensitive, reflective lines. So many times this parting leaves both pet and human companion with the feeling that there is more to come. I can cite an actual visual encounter with a recently deceased cat friend, and the turbulent feelings of another well loved feline at the moment of his death.

    There was also the very smart cat who had recently learned to bark — He came back to give me one final bark !

    They know there is more and they want us to know it too.

    Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Thank you, Sally.
      There was, several years ago, a woman living in the Monterey area, who liked to paint horses from photographs. She was able to convey this “they know there is more” quality more than I’ve ever seen in photographs.

      Reply
  5. C.B Anderson

    You gotta like Ben Franklin. As much as anyone could be, he was the zeroth (i.e. the one before the first) American President.

    Reply
  6. Margaret Coats

    Profound condolences to you, Julian, and to your wife, on the departure of Boots. The decision making is indeed very hard, even with the best intentions of preventing suffering. With my daughter, we have been through this three times in recent years, and I feel I have discovered what a desire for life (even with suffering) is present in animals. If and when the time for decision comes again, I may favor letting a beloved elder live out his or her natural term (with palliation and love in the final afflictions). Ending the suffering was more clearly correct in the case of a young cat who had been run over by a car and was not in shape to survive remedial surgery. That was the time when we saw the most suffering, of course. May God knit up your hearts wounded both by the prior suffering and the final leave-taking. I know you cherish all memories of Boots and his affection and all you were able to do for him.

    Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Thank you, Margaret. Boots was a voice in one of my earliest kids’ poems, and inspired 9 or so stories that showcase his habits and personality. I hope at some point I can get these stories and other Bootsiana published.

      Reply
      • Margaret Coats

        “Bootsiana” sounds like a great title. Please put a nice photo showing all the glorious fur on the cover!

  7. Cheryl Corey

    R.I.P. Boots. I bawled my eyes out when I found my beloved Sammy a.k.a. Cuddles dead by the back sliding door. I knew he was on his last legs, but it was still painful. But oh, the memories!

    Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Thanks, Ms Corey. If you haven’t done so, I hope you’ll be moved to write of Cuddles or other pets here.

      Reply
  8. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Julian, “Boots Before Us” has hit home with me. It’s a lovely poem that says much about lessons pets teach us. “Our burden was to fix the bottom floor / and see our old friend gently out the door.” says everything there is to say about a warm hand of care when the cold breath of death chills old bones. That “preview of what’s coming” is a heart-touching turn that brings home the magnitude of grief… grief I know I’m going to experience when our dear old cat, King George Lionel departs. Julian, I enjoyed both poems, but “Boots Before Us” is extra special. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Thank you, Susan. I’m pleased that a number of people were touched by this poem. Boots was special, too. I’ve tried to show how so several times. (See my reply to Margaret.)

      Reply

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