Monday, March 01, 2021


As an oversized kitten, he chomped the hand of a friend,
and we said, I'm sorry, he's still figuring out
what kind of cat he wants to be. 

Which is to say: he is not a metaphor
any more than he's a bad omen flitting blackly
across someone's path, but I must tell you this—

A year ago a new cat moved in;
we brought her here, I held the door 
for the invading army, and she marched in

On short legs, waving her tortoiseshell tail,
purring and rolling for the humans, 
but chasing him down like a tiger

He scaled the nearest fence,
a big brother witnessing the horror of an infant,
and disappeared, but he never bit or clawed her.

He's figured out what kind of cat he wants to be.
We don't see him in the sunlight anymore,
and this is my great failure, among many.

My mother birthed my sister because she loved
having one child so much, she thought why not two;
she ruined my life and created my best friend.

It only took us twenty years to retract our claws.
When I say this has been a nightmare year,
I mean there have been good parts and weird ones

Too, sudden cameos by elementary school friends
and psychedelic vistas, unearthly Seussian trees.
Each night before bed, we call our black cat.

Each night I take to the sidewalk unmasked,
sometimes unshod, shake a bowl of dry food,
and call his name like a woman who has long ago

Eschewed sanity. My voice bounces against windows
of lit-up bungalows, their flashing TVs and late dinners.
It is a year of new routines.

I said this sidewalk rosary—Olliebear, Olliecat, Ollie,
Ollie—the night we gave the baby back, the night
I thought we had the virus, the night the vaccine

Emerged on the horizon, a beacon of hope, sure, and also
something hard and literal: instructions to our bodies
to make a spike that fights an insidious enemy.

His body grows bigger beneath the streetlights.
He's middle-aged now, has made friends with
the neighbors, who call him Willie and Jack.

He is all fast feet and qualified forgiveness
and the sight of him is an injection of something.
He smells like a driveway fire pit, or someone's cologne.

If you told me to start a gratitude journal
I would fight you, but when I plunge my face
into his dark fur, it's a kind of sunrise,

One I don't know for sure will happen,
one tainted by my complicity and threaded with shadow,
but true as ink, squirmy as love.

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