I’ve been cradling the heavy cat in the half-dark
For an hour 
She likes how I make her feel 
And I like her— 
I was mean to the dog 
And now he’s dead 
Well, not mean 
Cold in moments 
He could have used the warmth 
I could tell and still did nothing about it
And so here I am 
Which I am accustomed to 
And anyhow I am happy 
To pay for such horrors, such ill manners
Of my character 
Even if I do blame you for it— 
How can I empathize with anything 
When I can’t remember empathy 
And you are the only mountain 
For miles all around 
I’ve had to learn to be kind again 
To uncoil my tendrils into the light 
Sometimes I pretend you are not a person
But a stone (how could I love
people again, if I didn’t?) 
And I warn them: Little Ones, 
Don’t learn from stones
They are too still
They are too sharp
Sometimes in the moonlight 
They whisper terrible things

Copyright © 2021 by E. C. Belli. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 17, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.