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eulogy for a nameless kitten

eulogy for a nameless kitten - Conquistador China*
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One of the realities of what I do is that I come across a fair amount of dead animals in the places I photograph. Most of the time they're birds, mainly pigeons - often little more than skeletons littered among piles of their own feces on attic floors. Sometimes they're bigger: squirrels, raccoons, sometimes things I can't even identify. Their teeth are bared by their decomposing skin in snarls, screams, smiles. I don't know. I'm not particularly afraid of them although they startle me, since I often don't notice them until I'm right next to them. There are exceptions: the wounded owl I tried unsuccessfully to save, the poor miserable mouse glued to the pool of ancient motor oil that I wound up killing because it was in such agony - but for the most part their struggles are done. I may take a picture but I rarely edit and post them, as often as not because I just don't feel like looking at them again.

In this photograph you'll notice at the right side of the concrete base there is a dead kitten. It must not have been dead long because it wasn't decayed. I didn't get any closer to it than this shot because I didn't really want to see the gory details of what had happened to it. I don't know if it was a boy or a girl. I don't know how it died, whether it was killed by the dog or the raccoon that live in this china plant or whether it died of starvation. Maybe it was poisoned by the toxic water pools when it tried to take a drink. All I really know of it is what you see here, that it was lying stretched on the floor like a kitten does when they are sleeping, but it was definitely not alive or intact. I have had pets all my life, and there is a sort of awful sorrow to something like this, a bottomless well. It was a beautiful little stripy gray and white cat with white paws. It could have had a good home, played with catnip toys and slept on a sunny windowsill. Maybe someone could have given it the sort of silly name you give a little stripy kitten with white paws: Socks, or Mittens, or Tiger. Who knows. It has no name at this point. It died of whatever it died of, presumably alone in the rotting husk of a china plant, and then just lay there exposed for the insects and rodents and birds to eat.

There is something so horribly awful and unfair about death at times that it defies words or explanation. You can look at a dead animal in a dead factory in a photograph, which is itself a dead moment, from the safety of a computer or a gallery and shake your head and say, "How tragic," or whatever it is we console ourselves with when we look at things that are hopelessly, irretrievably lost. There is a weird sort of buzz to it, a thrill of emotion and a connection with reality, and we feed on that like vampires. Maybe we feel smarter for having outlived the factory, the era, the creatures we behold. Maybe it's just that we're numb from having so much artificial crap shoved into our minds every waking minute that the simple actuality of death is somewhat of a relief. Maybe we tell ourselves there's a lesson to be learned, a moral to the story so we can go back to our business, eat our lunches and go on with our day.

I don't know that there is. I never got to know this little cat but I doubt there was anything that it did that justified this sort of ignominious end. I don't think there is a lesson to be learned or a moral to its story. I just think it's awful and sad, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it because at this point the kitten is gone. I wish things could have worked out better for it, because I sincerely doubt this was what it deserved. Wherever it is now, if it even continues to be on any level of existence, I hope it's better than this world. I hope it's a place where things like this don't happen and where kittens can run and play and grow in happiness and peace, free from the shadow of an impending disaster, the same impending disaster that awaits us all.


Text and photograph by Matthew Christopher, taken at Conquistador China.

Also in: Conquistador China*

so it is within
if only
ars moriendi