1. Suddenly, Sadie


    “Mama’s cat had kittens, you want one of ‘em?”

    J.D. was my landlord. I was living in a house in a small town in Alabama just outside of Huntsville. The house and the land had been in his family for generations. The house was a former foreman’s house. It was rumored to be haunted. J.D.’s mama lived just down the road from me and her cat was, frankly, a slut. Her cat had kittens at a frequency I suspected was the height of biological possibility. It wasn’t her fault.

    J.D. wore overalls a lot. He also hated cats. When I’d moved into the house, with two, he’d forbidden them from living inside. They’d both gotten run over by cars. I’d adopted two of his mama’s cat’s kittens since then — and they’d both been killed. Sure, I’ll take a kitten off your hands, but I have to set some parameters. “I’ll take one, J.D., but you gotta let me keep it inside,” I said, laying on the accent as thick as I could, trying to match his Alabama drawl with my more subtle North Carolinian one.

    “Whaddaya mean inside? Like in the house?”

    “Yes, J.D. Inside the house. At least while it’s young. You give me a kitten all by itself it won’t survive. You gotta let me keep it inside ‘til it gets big enough to fend for itself.”

    He relented. “I reckon s’long as you keep it in the kitchen there, in a box. Don’t let it get all over the house. Mama’s gotta get rid of these kittens.”

    I agreed. When I went to look at the kittens, I purposely chose the smallest and most timid. The one least likely to make it alone. The one least likely to be a farm cat. She was a tiny calico, quivering in the back of his mama’s stand-alone garage, and I walked back up to my house with her. I named her Sahara, but she never quite grew to fit a name so grand as that — I always called her Sadie.

    She was four weeks old when I took her from her mother, and I cared for her as best I could, keeping her inside. J.D. got a bit ornery one day when he saw her roaming about in the living room — “I thought you said you was gonna keep it in a box,” he said. I talked him down. I’d been practicing the charm.

    When I left Alabama, Sadie moved back to my parents’ house with me, saw me graduate from university, and then moved with me, again, to law school.

    Moving in, we thought we lost her. My family had come up to help me move in, and someone left a door open. We thought she’d gotten out. My dad called for her up and down the strange apartment complex, looking in bushes and up trees. Finally my parents called it a night and headed to their hotel, but my sister stayed with me. We went and got some beer and set to unpacking the kitchen. I couldn’t concentrate. I was beside myself. I wasn’t sure if I had the confidence to start law school without Sadie at home. I didn’t tell my sister that.

    We talked and unpacked boxes — if for no other reason than it was something to do, that had to be done. A few beers and a few boxes later, we discovered Sadie hadn’t ran away at all — she’d been hiding under one of the kitchen cabinets because she was scared of the ceiling fan. She’d never seen one before.

    She was always scared of ceiling fans.

    I graduated from law school and Sadie moved with me to Nashville. She didn’t get fake-lost this time — I was extra vigilant. We weren’t going through that again.

    And she saw me through so much. She was always there. Granted, she wasn’t the sweetest cat you’ve ever known. You’d think she’d be grateful — you’d think she’d realize that without me she’d be dead. She took it in stride. She spent more time grooming than she did sleeping — she was a beautiful cat, and she fucking knew it. I took pictures of her constantly because she virtually posed for them. She knew how to work a camera.

    She loved Jon Hopkins. I used to think she loved Coldplay until I realized the only Coldplay albums she liked were the ones Hopkins had produced — she was indifferent to the rest. Play Jon Hopkins and she’d come and sit next to the speakers and purr with that benevolent Buddha-cat smile on her face.

    Sadie Face. That, among many other things, was what I called her. She never grew into Sahara. She never weighed more than 11 pounds. She was tiny and she was pretty and she didn’t like for you to touch her. She didn’t even like for me to touch her — not really. Any interaction we had was in her time and on her terms. I loved her.

    She hated when I sang. If I didn’t know where she was, the quick and easy way to flush her out was to start singing. Sadie’d come running, claws flashing. I swear that little girl left me with scars. Don’t they all.

    We had a rapport. Our delicate balance was honed over more than a decade of trial and error, and it was seldom upset. She knew when I needed her, and I knew when she needed me. It worked. Last night, she didn’t need me — she needed me to let go. And last night, I didn’t need her — I needed her to let go as well. When her body failed and she lacked the strength even to raise her head, she needed me to let go. But still she stayed.

    As I watched her slip away, I realized sometimes letting go is the hardest part. As her breathing slowed, I stroked her head between her eyes, the same way I’d pet her to ease her to sleep as a kitten. It’s okay, I whispered. You can go.

    I love you. It’s okay. I love you. You can go.

    You can go.

    © 2014 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

  2. Sadie | October 20, 2000 — August 31, 2014

  3. Familiar Views

    Because sometimes we imagine
    this all is a dream, believing
    the likes of us couldn’t otherwise be
    so fortunate to find
    each other — and in each other,
    to find something so real.

    We spend our lives searching
    for something so true,
    and in absence of hope — we dream.

    Here we stand. We have names
    not our own, names carved
    from conversations and crafted
    by the breaching bursts of held-back
    laughter whimpering behind pursed banks,
    quivering and bitten.

    If I made you up, it was so I’d never forget
    to hope, to search, to reach, and to dream;
    and if you made me up, it was so
    you’d always remember to strive, to thrive,
    and to love.

    If we made each other up, it was so
    we’d never be alone — and what is real
    and what is true are in yours, and in mine,
    and in their reflections.

    © 2014 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

  4. ☛ Little Grasshopper Circus Bikes by S.T. McCarthy (Paperback) - Lulu


    Remember stmccarthy? Because I do. He’s just released a collection of his poetry - and it’s an absolute gem, crude and humorous in all the right places, witty in others, contrasted with poems that have such a poignant spin on mundane occurrences that it will make you stop and think and wonder, and sometimes learn. 

    It’s edited by tumblr champion Jayarrarr, so if that doesn’t speak to its quality, I don’t know what will. 

    This is a collection that I have quite literally been waiting two years for - he is one of my absolute favourite poets, and when he left tumblr, I asked him for copies of his poems so I could create my own collection of his. I hand-wrote them into a notebook, and it was the only book of poetry I took with me to Europe (other than The People Look Like Flowers at Last, of course). 

    Go. Buy it. Be amazed by his talent and his unique voice. You won’t regret it. 

    I did indeed edit this book. So if you find a typo or absolutely anything out of whack, it’s not Steve’s fault — it’s mine. Having read it at least once, I recommend it highly.

  5. Crash

    First time I heard your voice,
    it plummeted through to my core —
    and I don’t even remember
    what you said, but I know
    (I remember) I knew I’d found home.

    First time you said those words,
    they buried themselves in my soul —
    and I didn’t even know
    what would happen tomorrow, but I knew
    (I believe) I know I’ve found home.

    First time I breathe your smile,
    us holding we like no ending between —
    I won’t let go. I’ll be home.

    The rest is just details.

    © 2014 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

  6. Pile o’ cat

    Pile o’ cat

  7. Being Friends

    Roxane Gay just bitch-smacked me. In a good way.

    Today I began reading her book of essays, Bad Feminist. And in that book, there’s an essay titled “How to Be Friends with Another Woman.” This is the essay in which she bitch-smacked me. In a good way. I took it personally — also in a good way, because I think learning and growing is a good thing.

    All my life, I’ve had primarily guy friends. I don’t know what it is, but for some reason I get along better with guys than with girls — or so I’ve always thought (and loudly proclaimed). I can tell you “just one of the guys” stories going back to elementary school, through high school and college and beyond. I’ve proudly proclaimed that I have “a token female friend,” because in all phases of my life there’s always been one — and only one. But Roxane Gay called me out: she said (or rather, wrote) if you tell people that kind of thing like you’re proud of it, etc., you should check yourself.

    And I did check myself. Because all the things she said about all the myths of female friendship, the bitchy back-stabbing catty competitive gossipy gruel we’re fed, are just that — myths. Alright, fine, I said, mostly to myself but kinda to her too (or to the book, anyway), but I’ve just never gotten along well with other women. I’m not really a girly-girl, I don’t enjoy girly-girl things, and I just find it hard to be close friends with women.

    And she said (wrote): “If you feel like it’s hard to be friends with women, consider that maybe women aren’t the problem. Maybe it’s just you.”

    Maybe it is, Roxane Gay. Maybe it is. Maybe the reason I’ve never had a close friend who was both a woman and managed to transcend whatever common context we shared at one point (be that school or work) is that I’m a terrible (girl)friend.

    I don’t know how to be friends with women because I’ve never tried. It’s easy to be friends with guys, most of the time. I know what guys want, most of the time. I know how to talk to guys … most of the time. Women are like some unknown freakish beast to me — which is really quite strange, because I am one. I never know what they want or what they’d enjoy or how to approach them or what to talk to them about. Maybe I have been hanging out with heterosexual guys too long (or too much), and it’s made me stupid.

    Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I look at women through the same lens as the patriarchy sees women, because that’s all I’ve ever had to focus through. And maybe all it took was one bad feminist to bitch-smack me and correct my calibration, because now I realize — I’m not uncomfortable with women. I’m uncomfortable with myself.

    © 2014 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

  8. …as Yam Chestley wrote in Dixiecrats (1979), ‘The South knows two things through and through: cornbread and Satan’ (p. 166).
    Marisha Pessl, from Special Topics in Calamity Physics
  9. Godalming: What People

    “Those people were fighting,” Phoebe said at last. She realized she sounded like a child.

    “What people,” Daisy said, not looking up from the notebook she held in her palm. She flipped back a few pages, as though looking for a note she’d only now realized had relevance.

    “The people in the room. They were fighting.”

    “We can’t know that,” Daisy said, her pen scratching divots on the page. “Things aren’t always what they seem.”

    “No,” Phoebe said, summoning up every shard of confidence she had to pronounce that tiny word. “It was … I was … uncomfortable. I felt like …”

    “This is why we try to avoid talking about them,” Daisy said, flipping the cover of her notebook closed. “Well — one of the reasons, anyway. Your role here is to observe, as openly and blankly as possible, and to capture that observation. After you’ve been here awhile, after you’ve looked through more portholes, you’ll start to see connections between the people. You may even see the same people on more than one occasion. You’ll be tempted to tie those observations together in neat packages as though you’ve figured something out. The more you talk about them, the more tempted you are to speculate, to see things that aren’t there, to pull out those shiny threads and attach them together.”

    “I’m not sure I understand,” Phoebe said.

    Daisy laughed, and Phoebe laughed too, in relief that Daisy’s face had regained a warm and welcoming expression. “Of course you don’t understand,” Daisy smiled, taking her arm. “And that’s a good thing! How frightfully boring the world would be if you always instantly understood everything. Don’t you agree?”

    “Sure, I —”

    “Then it’s settled,” Daisy said, pulling Phoebe along with her as she set off down the hall. “I think we’ve done more than enough for one morning. Lunch? I believe Cook’s letting Max try one of his culinary experiments today.”

    “Max is?”

    “Oh,” Daisy’s eyes widened and she reached over with her other hand to squeeze Phoebe’s arm. “You haven’t met Max yet, have you?” She patted Phoebe’s arm and then raised her head and smiled.

    (Read from the first)

    © 2014 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

  10. Tomorrow

    Like when you said
    you hoped I wasn’t afraid
    of the dark, and I said
    not if I’m with you. Because

    we are made of more
    than light; our shadows
    give us depth and contrast.
    And while the world

    celebrates more superficial
    happinesses, we relish
    an existential ray
    of sunlight on our souls.

    Because I know that we
    together are something greater
    than the sum of our parts —
    and if even we were driving

    through the very gates of hell,
    if I were with you,
    I’d still feel pretty okay.

    © 2014 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller