Conversation with the Cat
me to cat: boop boop boop beep boop boop-bee-boop-boop
cat to me:
me to cat: petty petty pet pet for the poody poody poody
cat to me:
me to cat: look at this tummy! oh this is the fluffiest fluff floof!
cat to me:
me to cat: who’s the purriest furriest fur face?
cat to me: [flicks ear]
Penelope doesn’t rhyme
The lump under the covers
is a pillow and not a cat.
Another Kind of Absence
You were balancing your mother’s quiet regrets
like a saucer of milk for the strays, as you
walked out her front door, placed the saucer
gently on the stoop, then hurried away
with the ashes of her words in your hair, holding
a picture of your blanked-out self running
through the woods, like fire, and making up a language—
another kind of absence—by burning out the underbrush
so nothing would grow, to remind you. But you
did grow, and now you are older than yourself,
at least whenever you admit to things
you haven’t accomplished, to the animals you’ve seen
but left unnoticed, the feral dreams that yapped
and pulled themselves across the empty air,
then purred as they licked you raw as any sidewalk
in a city without seasons, where no one remembers
the word for horizon. And when she opened
her window to look out, wearing the nightgown
you gave her with your childhood, she looked for a moment
like a girl whose sweet face had been drenched by the rain
that had soaked her clear through, to the bone.
Stumble and rise is the rhythm of paradise, the echo of footsteps at midnight, moonless or moonlit, it doesn’t matter.
Paradise requires an old cat sitting by the drain next to the door of the church, her small tongue at the ready, requires the stones of a piazza that have been crumbling forever into the dusty rubble.
Paradise is the cat shrinking back into a corner when at midnight two teenagers arrive on a motorbike, the huge cough of the bike’s exhaust, their excited laughter, the girl with her arms around the waist of the boy.
Paradise is the boy, ready for anything, his helmet resting on its straps in the cradle of his arm, the motor idling, the cat completely still watching the girl from its hiding place as the girl watches the boy.
Paradise: midnight, her arms around his waist, moonless or moonlit.
[reprinted from Prognosis (Graywolf Press, 2021)]