Purr

i.
Voyager 1,
when it was launched in 1977,
carried on board a golden record
with the music of Mozart and Chuck Berry
and greetings to alien life
in fifty-five languages:

“Hello from the children of planet Earth,”
it said in English.
“May the honors of the morning
be upon your heads,”
it said in Turkish.

It’s difficult to beat,
“How are you all? Have you eaten yet?”
but my favorite is in Swedish:
“Greetings from a computer programmer
in the little university town of Ithaca,”
it says.

ii.
No one knows exactly why cats purr.
We assume they are happy,
comfortable, comforted, safe,
but vets report they also purr
at the moment of death,
after the needle is slipped under the skin
into the vein of the leg.

And studies show they purr
at a frequency that heals bone,
that a healthy cat will lie down
next to a sick one
and begin purring for it.

But they don’t purr when they are born,
and they’re born blind and deaf,
ears down, like lumps of damp dough,
spinning through space
in their own quiet world,
huddled up against that soft universe
of fur and flesh,
huddled against the mother
they can only feel
in their blindness,
in the deep mute well of the night,
eyes lidded,
eyes wrapped in skin and loss,
until three weeks or so along:

purr.

The root and meaning of all speech,
their own golden record:
It’s me.
I’m here.

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