Originally published in Willow Springs 80

From the author

Notes on “A Prayer to Cathy McMorris Rodgers for the Preservation of My Health Insurance”

A couple weeks after the election I was driving from deep blue Portland to hot purple Spokane, and somewhere in the middle—north of the Tri-Cities but south of Ritzville, maybe near Connell, definitely deep in the fifth legislative district—it hit me all over again: not only was my president Donald Trump, but my representative, the person my neighbors had re-elected for a seventh term, was Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the most powerful Republican woman in Congress, the woman who would soon argue in a Washington Post editorial that she wanted to gut Obamacare because her son has a pre-existing condition, that she was doing it for him and people like him. It was a few weeks after the election, so much felt trashed and endangered, and she was my intermediary, she was my conduit, she was supposed to speak to government on my behalf. She was me, or a version of me, my representative, an extension of the will of my community. When I got home, I started my first Cathy poem. 

I admit it’s hard for me to think of Cathy as anything but a cardboard construction of power hovering behind Trump’s shoulder, smiling for the camera. Democracy makes me complicit in anything she does on my behalf, so self-righteousness is useless here. The hardest thing about writing these poems (and the point of them for me, personally) is staying reasonable in the face of having no control. 

This feels related to the ways I’m trying to resist feeling disenfranchised and resist dehumanizing or dismissing people I disagree with. A Prayer to Cathy helps remind me that I still have a voice, and that Cathy McMorris Rodgers is a real person who can hear that voice. Despite the conflict of our civic lives, we remain neighbors.


Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

I had this cat, Swiffer. He loved men’s shoes and butter and tucking his head beneath my chin when I held him. He was the best cat, just this bottomless pit of affection, loved me so much that when I’d leave the house he’d pee all over the front door. He was awful and wonderful and when he died of old age, I thought I’d never have another cat like him.  

The neighbors I adopted him from said he was a barn cat, but there’s no way he was a barn cat. Instagram taught me this. You can see exactly what he looked like if you type in #siberiancat. I mean exactly. Swiffer was a super designer breed of fluffy cat—hypoallergenic and bred to be friendly. My special little weirdo was actually a bundle of selected traits. I’m okay with that. It means I can buy a Swiffer II that looks exactly like Swiffer I. All I need is $1200.  

$1200!! This is an immoral sum to spend on a cat.  

If I had no shame I’d start a Swiffer II campaign on GoFundMe. People use crowdfunding to travel the world and go to Breadloaf and build monuments to grilled cheese sandwiches—why not raise cash for a fancy cat?  

I do not do this for two reasons. 1) It’s too ridiculous to bear. 2) I buy health insurance through the Obamacare markets, and if Cathy McMorris Rodgers and her Republican colleagues succeed in torpedoing the market and/or stripping those benefits, I’ll need to save my community’s GoFundMe goodwill for my next medical emergency.  

So here’s to not having designer cats—or cancer!


About Kate Lebo

Kate Lebo is the author of Pie Schooand A Commonplace Book of Pie, and co-editor (with Samuel Ligon) of Pie & Whiskey, an anthology of writers under the influence of butter and booze. Her work has appeared in Best American EssaysNew England Review, Gettysburg Review, Mossand Blood Orange Review, among other places. Her new book of nonfiction, The Book of Difficult Fruit, is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus & Giroux. She lives in Spokane, Washington, where she’s represented by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the highest ranking Republican woman in Congress.