Charles W. Brice

Cleaning-Up Cat Puke, Naked, at 70

First Place

At 7, I gazed upon the waxy but peaceful face
of my dead cousin, a rosary round through his
fingers just so. I wanted to become a mortician.

At 14, The Beatles and James Brown replaced
the blood in my veins and produced kick-
beats that made me into a musician.

At 30, I discovered the vagaries of the mind.
I became a psychoanalyst and hoped to write
twenty-five volumes of theory—
one more than Freud.

Today, at 70, fresh from the shower, I discover
a mound of cat puke on our bedroom floor. Armed with
paper towel and disinfectant, and still naked, I clean it up.

I know, then, that I’m exactly where I belong:
naked, cleaning up cat vomit, at 70 years of age, in the
house where my wife has lived with me for 46 years,
where we raised our son to become the finest man I know—
where the furry being who produced this putrid
puddle carries no grudges, and neither do I.