When Milo was a kitten
and spent the night
with us in the big bed,
curled like a brown sock
at our feet, he would
wake before daybreak,
in his best Burmese,
and make bread on our stomachs
until if one of us did not rise,
sleep-walk to the kitchen
and open his can of food,
he would steal under the covers,
crouch, run hard at us,
jam his head
in our armpits,
and burrow fiercely.
Probably he meant nothing by that.
Or he meant it in cat-contrary,
just as he did not intend
drawing blood the day
he bolted out the door
and was wild again
for nearly three hours.
I could not catch him
until I knelt, wormed
into the crawl-space
under a neighbor house
and lured him home
with bits of dried fish.
Or he meant exactly what he smelled,
and smelled the future
as it transmogrified out of the past,
for he is, if not an olfactory
a highly nuanced cat—
an undoer of complicated knots,
who tricks cabinets,
who lives to upend tall
glasses of Merlot.
With his whole body,
he has censored the finest passages of Moby-Dick.
He has silenced Beethoven with one paw.
He has leapt three and a half feet
from the table by the wall
and pulled down
your favorite print by Miró.
He does not know the word no.
When you asked the vet what
kind of cat it was, she went
into the next room
came back and said,
The yellow eyes, the voice,
the live spirit that plays into dead seriousness
and will not be punished into goodness,
an ancient, nameless breed—
mink he says and I answer in cat.
Even if I was not
born in a dumpster
between a moldy cabbage
and an expired loaf of bread,
I too was rescued by an extravagant woman.
Copyright © 2019 by Rodney Jones. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 3, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
That streetlight looks like the slicked backbone
of a dead tree in the rain, its green lamp blazing
like the first neon fig glowing in the first garden
on a continent that split away from Africa
from which floated away Brazil. Why are we not
more amazed by the constellations, all those flung
stars held together by the thinnest filaments
of our evolved, image making brains. For instance,
here we are in the middle of another Autumn,
plummeting through a universe that made us
from its shattering and dust, stooping
now to pluck an orange leaf from the sidewalk,
a small veined hand we hold in an open palm
as we walk through the park on a weekend we
invented so we would have time to spare. Time,
another idea we devised so the days would have
an epilogue, precise, unwavering, a pendulum
strung above our heads. When was the sun
enough? The moon with its diminishing face?
The sea with its nets of fish? The meadow’s
yellow baskets of grain? If I was in charge
I’d say leave them there on their backs
in the grass, wondering, eating berries
and rolling toward each other’s naked bodies
for warmth, for something we’ve yet to name,
when the leaves were turning colors in their dying
and we didn’t know why, or that they would return,
bud and green. One of a billion
small miracles. This planet will again be stone.
Copyright © 2019 by Dorianne Laux. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.