Zen was this cat, see. Her full name was Tazendra Dzur Bernard; her first two names came from my favorite character in Steven Brust‘s novel The Phoenix Guards. Zen narrowly escaped the horrible nickname Tazi (rhymes with “spazzy”); instead she was sometimes called Zenny, Zen-Zen, Wombat, Tugboat, and a million other nicknames. Zen had an unreasonable amount of tortitude.

Zen was born in the spring of 1997 just outside Birmingham, Alabama. She was a tortoiseshell calico; her mother was a purebred Siamese and her father was a ginger tabby. Zen was the smallest, strangest kitten in the bunch, and I picked her out because I knew her chances of being adopted were smaller than the others’. I have never once regretted my choice.

Zen’s favorite toys were her crinkly catnip-filled “Leftenant Snakey” and full mugs of tea. For reasons of international safety, Zen never got to meet her spiritual twin, Lola.

Zen inspired poetry. Here is something I wrote for her:

and you my cat who cries at nothing who leaps over my head and steps on my breasts to chase the moth i intentionally let in for your amusement you the protector of the beige grosgrain ribbon you the enemy of any plant i might even consider bringing into this tiny room you are not my cat at all are you you are some unidentifiable unnamed unscientifically-named wraith of confusion always needing to be let into the closet which holds your interest for less than the time it takes me to blearily pull open the door

yet when i smell your fur when i pull you into my red bitten arms and when i hold you i can feel the seven years between us the humidity in alabama and my tears that you licked away when i could only hold despair i hold you now and think

how good to know you my cat how good to depend on your existence and how good to share my shower-dripped legs with your figure-eight steps each morning how good to see you asleep so precariously in sunlight how good to feel your small form curled against the curve of my belly when i cannot sleep because of the things i know awaiting me in my head how good to know there is something so simple in the world as the slow close of your eyes when i pet just the right spot

and you my cat sent from an alien land to remind me that i must feed and water something other than myself that i am not wrong or mistaken in the sheer touch of fingertips to eartips and that we two have moments past and moments yet to go

And that was my Zen. She died on 26 September 2019 and I will miss her every day of my life.