Labored breathing in the middle of the night, but morning finds you still here, still drinking all the special-milk I can pour for you. Nineteen years in the knowing. We were both young girls then, our first apartment, Salt Lake City, you: a handful of cat, protecting your brother by puffing up to the size of a large breakfast muffin and hissing with a mouth no wider than a fingernail, but for all you were worth. Your worth: nothing I can measure with your breaths-heavy, and countable but not, and value, but never enough. From Utah to Alabama to two cities in Ohio, I raise today to you and with luck, tomorrow, too.
Dawn terror of songbirds, night-visioned devil,
if there is a heaven for animals, it follows that there be a hell.
And so, at last, I’ll know where to look for you.
There, at least, you’ll appear with wings—
though they’ll be gristly and bloodied in your grinning mouth.
There the nose leather of Cerberus shall bleed into eternity.
Furred city of the meanest fleas, if there was ever some cheetah
under your tabby hide, it died long before you did.
Time had your gold eyes cotton and haze,
farmers kicked and shot at you,
and packs of leash-less dogs put you at bay,
but I will wake in the dark morning one time more,
and tell the mockingbirds, though I do not believe it true,
that Wallace, my own, wakes in the Egypt of some albacore heaven.
Eliot Khalil Wilson
Buy his new book: This Island of Dogs
at AWP 2010 or from Amazon in April.