A few days ago I received the pleasant news that a poem of mine, “Leaving Corky,” is being used by Pearson Education Asia in an upcoming English language textbook in Hong Kong. The poem originally appeared in THE PURCHASE OF SMALL SECRETS, published in 1998 by Boyds Mills Press. Later on Sandy Asher included it in her play inspired by my poetry, SOMEBODY CATCH MY HOMEWORK.
A few years later Boyds Mills published my autobiographical collection of poetry, CONNECTING DOTS, but SECRETS came first and held some of my strongest memories. Corky was my cat. Even as a kitten it was a scratcher of arms and biter of hands but we bonded anyway, in the way a boy can still love a pet that plays rough one minutes then rolls over for a tummy rub the next.
Corky grew up to be a tough cat. We lived outside the city in a small cottage on a farm. Corky and I had plenty of space to explore and investigate, but I did my roaming by day and he pursued his interests in the dark world of the night. As time passed, Corky fell into the habit of staying away for a day or two, then a week, if he felt like it. I always worried about him and would stand at the edge of the pasture behind our house, calling his name in my high pitched nine-year-old voice. “Corky! Here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty!”
Sometimes he would come when I called. He often showed signs of a fight. He would be missing a patch of fur. His face would be slashed. He might be limping. After a few days of loafing while he healed, off he would go again.
After two winters in the little house, my dad found something better. The wind didn’t whistle in under the door or around the windows, I would have my own bedroom instead of sharing the same room with my parents, and we would have an indoor bathroom. I was thrilled. Except for one huge worry. Corky was off on another of his extended stays and I was afraid that he would come home one day soon and not know where we had gone.
Moving day arrived. We loaded our belongings into our car and made a few trips to the new house. It didn’t take many. Finally, we were ready to leave with the last load. This was it. Mom was already in the car. Dad was behind the wheel. I stood at the edge of the pasture and called for Corky. I turned in slow circles and called him in every direction. I just knew he would suddenly appear and everything would be okay. But he didn’t come. That’s what this poem is about.
David L. Harrison
I stand with the car door open.
“Corky!” I call out across the fields.
“Here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty!”
“Time to go.”
Dad’s voice is quiet.
“Just one more hour,” I beg.
“He’s been gone a month already,” he says.
“Probably chewed up again.”
The car eases down the dirt drive.
I stare out the window,
leaving a mind trail,
but in my heart I know.
I’ll never see him again,
never know if he’s alive,
never be able to explain.
I’m too sad to cry.
THE PURCHASE OF SMALL SECRETS has been out of print for years but sometimes you can find a used copy. Here’s a link to Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Purchase-Of-Small-Secrets-The/dp/1563970546/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351003933&sr=8-1&keywords=the+purchase+of+small+secrets