The Epic of Senge
by John Wall Barger
We moved to Philadelphia from an Indian village
& shipped our big old tomcat, Senge.
We tried to keep him inside our row house,
tempting him with toys & snacks,
but he longed for village life:
fighting cats, hunting rats, walking the roofs
of the huts. He cried his lungs out:
“Freedom!” he cried. “Liberty!”
Sleepless, defeated, we opened the door:
Senge padded out in triumph.
He walked the sidewalks of West Philly,
manifesting all the lavish beauty
& violence of the village. Every day
he got lost. Today Tiina & I comb
the misty late-summer streets, searching.
Tiina—whose love for that cat
is fugitive & powerful—is so worried
she can’t talk. As we step into Clark Park
I joke, “Maybe he caught a boat
back to India!” She emits a small,
dry laugh. We scan the park.
Dogs: fourteen. Cats: zero.
But it’s nice. We sit in the damp grass.
Someone strums a woozy guitar.
Soft, distant singing. The sky, opening.
Under a maple tree: a pile, a form,
it is a body, an opossum. Twisted, seeping,
torn like a bag of rice. I say nothing.
Everything is wet. Record rain this year.
Even the kindness hovering in the high branches
is wet, glittering, pretty. Almost unbearable.
And familiar. The peaceful men
playing chess on fold-out tables.
The children blowing bubbles of light.
Like attending a warmhearted funeral,
which just happens to be your own.
John Wall Barger’s poems appear in American Poetry Review, Rattle, The Cincinnati Review, Poetry Ireland Review, and Best of the Best Canadian Poetry. His fourth book, The Mean Game, is coming out with Palimpsest Press, spring 2019. He lives in West Philadelphia and is an editor for Painted Bride Quarterly.