Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 14
Spring 2016

The Visit

by Steve Kowit

It was late & since Mary was already asleep, I figured I’d make
another stab at cleaning that frustratingly cluttered desk
where I write my poems, before turning in for the night.
But when I whispered softly, “Honey, sleep well,” certain she wouldn’t
hear me, she unexpectedly opened her eyes & after a moment
by way of explaining why she was lying awake, said, in a quiet voice
weighted with grief, that last night Ivan had come back for a visit.

I nodded, mumbling something or other to let her know that
I understood, & watched as her eyes closed again & she drifted
uneasily into that world that is even stranger than this one,
that world into which those who have left us for good
sometimes return. Of course I was taken aback, given how many
years ago all of that was. Ivan, her beloved companion & solace
back in that Ebers Street place those three years I was gone—
that feisty, game, affable cat who was with us still when we
were together again, in those houses we rented in Lakeside & Santee,
& then up here in this tiny place in the hills in that final year of his life,
by then an old, scraggly tom ridden with cancer, hobbling about on three
legs. Ivan—one more small grief that the heart pretends it can bear.

I clicked off the light, letting her sleep, & walked down the hallway
into this tiny unkempt room, my so-called study, this jumble
of books & papers & half-finished poems. Yes, painful for sure,
but a gift nonetheless, a visit like that from someone
she’d loved with such unbroken devotion—Ivan, who’d managed
somehow to find his way back to this house, & to curl up beside
her again, if ever so briefly, is what I was thinking, as I sat myself
down here at this desk that I’m always planning to clean, & wrote this.


—First published in The Sun (Issue 437, May 2012); republished here from Cherish: New and Selected Poems by Steve Kowit (University of Tampa Press, October 2015), with kind permissions from the publisher and Mary Kowit

See also:

1. Details About “Kowit’s Korner” and The Kowit Prize (updated in SHJ:16)

2. A Tribute to Steve Kowit in The Sun (Issue 475, July 2015)

“...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