Two Poems

 

HERDING CATS

Because welfare made my mom work, she got a job at the post office. She coded
mail. She worked the nightshift, the dayshift. Sometimes, she worked in delivery,
heaving boxes from trucks. Sometimes she called me selfish. Other times, she called
me impossible, like herding cats. We only had two cats. Two is not a herd. I wanted
to go to my aunt’s every day to clean bathrooms, empty trash, iron my gay uncle’s
suits he never wore. In their cupboards they kept great tubs of cheeseballs and great
multi-pound bags of party mix and chocolate chips. I did laundry, even my mom’s
stringy underwear. I held their favorite toy, the swisher, a wand of feathers, curls of
ribbon, and a small metal bell. I watched cable and ate my aunt’s food. I played Felix
the Cat video games in the room my aunt said was haunted. I read her books and
folded towels. I watched Cat People and The Cat from Outer Space, balling socks. My
mom was across town, sleeping days to cover nights, petting our cats, or walking the

neighborhood because she said, Men like skinny chicks. I wasn’t skinny or a chick. I
was an egg who wanted hours alone to think. I wanted to roam an old farmhouse full
of Scottish Folds, disappearing into worlds of space cats, ghost cats, and Cat Fancy. I
was selfish with a wish. I was wishing myself elsewhere, feral, gone and the way to
herd it there, was to vacuum the stairs, sweep the dust pussies, scoop the litter, the
great round-faced ones ushering me along, holding the swisher against their tongue.  

SWEETENING THE KITTIES


Wear the newsprint cat dress I made you and the saddle oxfords, my aunt said on cat
show days. I minded, carried kibble to the car, fetched cat miscellany, and lint
brushed it all. I thought, this was how the world worked, minding my own
thoughts. Great minds think like cats, my uncle said. I sat a folding chair. I read
a choose your own adventure with a space cat. I smiled at people who
stopped at our table of caged cats, awards fluttering blue ribbons. I smiled
because, everywhere there were cats. People
groomed cats or left them unattended. Cats everywhere played toy mice. You can look
around, my aunt said, Tell them you’re my niece. I looked around. I told anyone who
asked, my aunt was a breeder and I got to help. I collected free copies of Cat Fancy,
free cans of Fancy Feast, free cat posters for the guest bedroom where I slept at my
aunt’s. The intercom babbled with cat results and ribbons, Best in Show! I listened for
the names of the calico, the cream, the bicolor stud. In her lacy collar and hennaed
hair, my aunt burbled with potential cat buyers. I shook the sack of treats. My uncle
played swisher, asking if anyone wanted to touch.

poetryBarzakh Mag