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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – February 20

February 22, 2018

Poem of the Week 02/20/18

Cats

Della Rowland

I
A cat followed me one afternoon as I walked across my college campus.
A car hit it as I was coaxing it across a street.
I knew by its glassy eyes it was dead.
I stood looking at it from the curb for a long moment.
I don’t remember the color of its fur.

II
A Manx cat was sitting in the middle of the road one night
as I drove through a wooded suburb near campus,
pure white against the dark road and tree trunks.
I stopped the car and opened the passenger-side door.

The cat hopped in as if he’d been waiting for me to pick him up,
tapping his paw on the blacktop as he watched the clock of the moon
move across the sky,
ticking away the mid-night hours.

I took him home to my youngest sister
who named him Bunny.
He was killed by a big dog who lived down block,
who got out of its yard
and broke the cat’s soft white neck
with one good shake,
then flung him under the next-door neighbor’s car
where we couldn’t reach him.

Bunny pitched and clawed the air for a few long seconds
while I tried to scoot under the car in my good clothes and hose.
Stretching my arm toward him, I saw his eyes turn glassy.
I wrapped him in a towel, put him in the car,
and took him to the vet anyway
because my sister was hysterical.

III
In the year of my madness
I roamed the woods behind my college campus
and spent nights in the graveyard, unafraid of death.

A knoll of sparse grass slopes down to a pond,
and in the still water, my kneeling reflection,
and that of a cat coming over the green ridge toward me,
its eyes growing larger until they are all I see.
The brown or black cat turns lurid colors and disappears,
along with the slope and pond,
behind one looming platter-shaped eye.

I cannot breathe under such scrutiny.

When at last I can,
I scribble down the incident,
and find it is the same as the one the night before.

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