The dverse haibun prompt is about finding pleasure in broken things.


How many times have we taken in a damaged heart, four legs and eyes full of doubt? How many small lives encountered, fur flea-crawling and gut full of worms, scars on the skin and in the mind? How often have I held a scrap of fur in cupped hands and felt the tremor of a heartbeat, stroked a head, scabbed and filthy until, with a soft sigh, the muscles relax and the thought of flight dissolves?

Your lives fit around mine, drift in and out of the river, flit from patch to pool of ephemeral sunlight until the time comes for you to sink back into the teeming earth, and I am privileged to have walked a short way in your warmth. You are so many, broken things that live in our shadow not by our sides, fearful where there should be companionship. How can it be otherwise, when we are so indifferent to the sufferings of our own kin?


Take a piece of earth,

dig in seeds, pour spring sunshine—

even dust will sprout.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

70 thoughts on “Mending”

  1. Such a touching way to put it, Jane. And it so happens that I have my own rescued broken thing right here on my lap, a black cat with almost the exact same white marking as the one in your photo! She had been wild and antisocial when I adopted her, and oh, so very scared. But now I am her person, and we take care of each other.

    1. The cat is Trixie, and although she was also found wandering the streets (outside the mosque to be precise) she is the only one of our foundlings to have always looked well-fed and sleek.

      1. Mine is Nyx, and she was found on the streets by the shelter and “failed out” of two foster homes before I showed up to adopt the one cat that wouldn’t play with the others or let anyone get close to her. She looks sleek but underfed — she has a kidney disorder and I spend half my time trying to feed her. Luckily she doesn’t seem to realize that she’s sick, and mostly lives a perfectly normal, energetic life.

      2. Our Trixie is anti-social too. Very rarely lets herself go enough to tap a piece of tin foil around and certainly hisses at any cat that tries to get her to join in a chasing game. She’s perfectly healthy though. The others are all (or have been) chronically sick in some way, always from ill-treatment and malnourishment. It’s up to us to pick up the pieces.

      3. Nyx is very social with me, but still scared of everyone else. It’s my fault for being such a hermit. For a while, I was having people over more often, and she was starting to get used to it – would even come out of hiding and come sniff people, if they were quiet enough. But now she stays hidden if anyone’s over.

        It’s kind of you to take in these cats with chronic problems. They need someone with lots of patience and love to give; lucky for them, they found you!

      4. There are a surprising number of people round here who take in abandoned animals or feed hordes of homeless cats. They tend to be the same people who keep tabs on the homeless people too.
        Nyx sounds like our animals and for the same reasons. We don’t have anyone round if we can help it and the four-legged residents don’t meet enough people to build up any kind of confidence. We’re selling our house at the moment and the visits are driving them crazy!

      5. Nyx gets scared whenever maintenance comes over, for instance, but at least she gets over it faster than she used to. I’m having a big party in two weeks though, and she is *not* going to like that!

      6. She has her favorite hiding place under the bed, behind the boxes on either side, where I can’t even see her if I try. Either that, or in the walk-in closet behind the shoes, hidden by the hanging clothes. At least, that’s where I *think* she is when I can’t find her — but she’s a crafty one!

      7. I could rearrange the boxes that are under the bed so that I could see into every corner, but I figure she deserves her privacy. 😉

      8. It’s a pretty small apartment, so her options are limited. But she seems content with the bed and the closet, so I don’t have to make any more options. 😉

      1. I must admit, I’m not really a cat lover. In the world of blogging, that’s a bit like admitting to being an atheist. However, we have ended up as accidental cat owners, and I have been very fond of the cats we have lived with. My daughter has tamed a couple of cats that had gone feral – she’s very calm and gentle – and they both became really friendly and good-natured, so I can see the magic in what you have described. I love the second paragraph, the idea of walking the earth with other species. We seem to find it hard to walk the earth with other people. Too much wanting stuff, not enough sharing.

      2. I’m not a sentimental ‘animal lover’ who likes to have ‘pets’ with pony tails and cuddly blankets. I just enjoy the companionship of animals and having them around. It’s hard to pretend not to see suffering but it’s very hard to do much about human suffering. You can’t adopt other people’s children, take in entire families, or even open your door to the group of homeless men on the corner. People are difficult to help, and I’m not as big-hearted as a neighbour who took in a homeless man and his dog, and despite regretting it bitterly (he settled in with no intention of moving on) didn’t boot him out. It’s a lot easier to take in a beaten up moggy. They don’t need much and if they turn out to be impossible to live with, they move on of their own accord.

  2. You have a kind and compassionate heart Jane ~ Love how you take care of these animals and give them home, until they sink back into earth ~ Also love that spring sunshine of your haiku ~

    1. Thank you! But I’m not always so compassionate. It was one of the children brought in the last basket case, a kitten that was hanging around outside. The poor thing looked at death’s door. I was secretly hoping the people next door would take pity on it first. No such luck!

      1. Yes, I do know. I am a failed foster twice over, the last time for the little guy in my pic, who, btw, is the smartest dog I’ve ever met, but he has also been the most broken.

      2. When they are very attached to one person in particular, they observe so intently because they want to know what that person wants of them. Dogs give everything without asking for much in return!

      3. Dogs are such nice people. It’s human people who transform them into vicious killers by beating and terrorizing them. We are the ones who revel in violence and bloodshed.

    1. Thank you, Sarah 🙂 There used to be a ton of abandoned animals around here, but the flow seems to have lessened, thank goodness. Far more dogs now than cats and they are a bigger responsibility to take in.

  3. That’s neat Jane. Pouring in Spring sunshine will make even dust sprout. Taking the time to notice the world around us, whether human or animal would sure make the world a better place, like you just did

    1. Thanks Walter 🙂 There are lots of kind people around here who look after abandoned things. Not just dogs and cats either. There are plenty of broken people wash up here and plenty of kindly, very ordinary people who take the time to bring them food, help, and chat with them.

    1. Many people find it easier to get gooey-eyed over a kitten than they do over a starving baby. We’re a mixed up species, and we find it too easy to be cruel and heartless.

  4. Mending broken animals is a special art in itself – not everyone has the heart, the skill or the patience for it, and those who do are very special – blessed. I love how you’ve described an animal lover’s life: ‘Your lives fit around mine, drift in and out of the river, flit from patch to pool of ephemeral sunlight until the time comes for you to sink back into the teeming earth, and I am privileged to have walked a short way in your warmth’.
    And I agree that many humans ‘are so indifferent to the sufferings of our own kin’.

  5. Oh…..! I’ll tell you the memory you brought alive in your prose in a second here. But I must first say, I read your haiku and a huge audible “ohhhhh” escaped my lips. Stunning haiku!
    So my memory is of going to a farmhouse that advertised kittens for sale one winter day — 50+ years ago. We found a mama can and her kittens, living outside, beneath a dryer vent to stay warm. I was about to give some not so kind words to the woman who came outside to greet us and take us around the corner of the house to the outside dryer vent, when I saw this one kitten with a half-ear….part had been lost to frost-bite. We scooped her up….a calico darling. Once in the car, she settled into my lap and purred the entire way home. We named her Purrsalot and she was a joy for many years! 🙂 Thanks for bringing that memory to mind and a smile to my face! 🙂

    1. Thank you! One of the things I like most about the haibun form is that it leads up to a tiny poem that condenses the spirit of the prose while not actually repeating the words.
      Those were the days, when people actually paid money for kittens! I’m glad you rescued Purrsalot and gave her such a pretty name 🙂

  6. I love this, Jane. It’s funny–when I read the prompt, I thought of our cats. You said this so well. Both of our cats came from a shelter, though they were kittens when we got them (separately). I think I told you that the people at the shelter called one of them “demon cat,” but he just needed a home with people who love him.

    1. Thank you 🙂 No cat is a demon cat. Only people are evil. I know I’ll probably be accused of helping animals when I ought to be helping human beings, but it isn’t easy to open your home to a family of people. How many caring people would actually do that anyway? You can do it for cats though, and the odd dog.

  7. You have a beautiful heart Jane, beating out enough love to fill in the cracks (of distrust) in your rescued cats.
    And you are right, we humankind seem indifferent to the sufferings of our own kin. Sad, but true.
    Anna :o]

    1. Thank you Anna! I think it’s more that you have to have a very cold heart to turn away an animal in distress. I tried to do it once, turned a blind eye and hoped the kitten would find another home, and one of the children brought her in anyway. We still have her. She’s about five years old, a sandwich short of a picnic and no sense of balance, but a lovable scrap that has never grown up.

  8. Your haibun is so moving. Love that haiku and the photo of the kitty.
    The one cat we have now was rescued by my youngest son. One of his friends had a cat who’d just had a litter weeks before and he asked if he could bring one home. We’d just lost a beloved 12 year old furbaby and I told him no. I didn’t want another one at the time, but he brought it home anyway, and she became an instant part of the family. She walked into my study, sniffed books, and then fell asleep on my lap. She was home and I was in love. We also have two shelter dogs that are the sweetest pups.

    1. Cats have an uncanny way of knowing where they will find a home. Our first cat in this house just jumped in through the window. I’d heard a cat crying outside, and he heard me open the window to look. Without a second’s hesitation he trotted over and jumped in. Next thing I knew he had gone through to the front room, curled up in an armchair and gone to sleep! Trixie, the cat in the photo, followed my son when he brought his little sister home from school. She was a roly-poly kitten and attached herself to him outside the school and trotted behind across two roads, wailing her head off. She’s always been a big mouth!

      1. I definitely think they choose. The last one to ‘arrive’ had been dumped behind iron railings at the end of the street and she couldn’t get out on her own, or else I’m sure she’d have been sitting patiently on the doorstep waiting to be let in.

      2. Apparently where we live is a spot that’s often used. It’s quiet, off the main thoroughfare and a cul-de-sac. The neighbour has four cats all dumped as kittens underneath his windows.

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