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SHJ Issue 9
Spring 2014

[Three Prose Poems]

Dan Gilmore

Good Kitty

Monday: I vowed to become the steward of my own health, eat life-giving foods, watch less cheerleading competition on TV, stop fretting about cripples getting all the best parking places, meditate, brush Kitty, begin each day repeating an affirmation about my own decency. For lunch I ate a modest portion of nonfat cottage cheese and a few raw almonds.

Tuesday: I drank half a bottle of Trader Joe’s wine, ate a whole macaroni and cheese casserole, watched reruns of Wheel of Fortune, hated the wobbly slob I saw reflected in the TV screen, hated my cat for her lack of goals, her all-too-casual approach to life, her commitment to nothing except strokes, nibbles, and goat cheese.

Wednesday: I tried to train Kitty to sit up and meow for food. She couldn’t make the connection. So, I ordered her to do what she’s doing—lie down, purr, lick her paws, stretch, yawn, eat. “Good Kitty.” Her lids slowly sank. “Sleep,” I commanded. She slept. I turned off the TV, ate some nonfat cottage cheese, drank a martini, stroked my smart cat, felt almost holy.



It’s about making something up, something beautiful, and doing it on the spot. On the spot. When I’m on, the doors fling open and this happy thing comes flying out. The great ones were on all the time—Getz’s smooth breathless flights, Mile’s modal sighs, the ache that Billie felt when she sang the blues. I don’t know where it comes from. I don’t. It’s like this voice comes out of my horn. And I think, I’m not doing this. Who’s doing this? Then I let it carry me wherever it wants. It scares me sometimes. It rises and falls like a bird—movement, pattern, echoes off echoes, color laid on color, polyrhythms. There’s silence too, emptiness filled with anticipation, then, wham! I fill it with a wail, or I edge in with a whisper. And everything else is far away and unimportant. It’s the most alive I’ve ever felt. I mean when I’m on, I am so alive I’m almost dead.



I’ve spent a great deal of my life fretting over problems people have but don’t know they have. And if by some remote chance they know they have them, they aren’t inclined to fix them. And if they know about them and want to fix them, they don’t know how. And even then they’d never dream of asking me for advice.

This has given me permanent slumped shoulders and a look of consternation. People older than me, most of whom are severely troubled, are holding doors open for me, bidding me to pass first, patting me on the back or giving a slumped shoulder a sympathetic squeeze. Complete strangers ask if I’m having a problem. And when I answer, “Yes, you’re my problem,” it only makes me more slumped and more distressed.

It seems I have turned myself into my worst nightmare. I’ve become one who frets about my problem of fretting about others’ problems. I could fix my problem if only others would fix theirs and leave me in peace with less to fret about.


—Versions of all three of these poems appear in either Love Takes a Bow: New & Collected Poems (Imago Press, 2010) or Panning for Gold: New & Collected Poems (Imago Press, 2014).


SHJ Issue 9
Spring 2014

Dan Gilmore

has published a novel, A Howl for Mayflower, and two collections of poetry and monologues, Season Tickets and Love Takes a Bow. He has won the Raymond Carver Fiction Contest, the Martindale Fiction Award, and the Sandscript Award for Short Stories. His poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, San Diego Reader, Aethlon, Blue Collar Review, The Carolina Review, Sandscript, and Loft and Range.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury