Known a fair number of them. Heard the first
squeak of them from inside a box or cage.
Watched them dart, look puzzled, scamper, wage
war on shoe-laces, yowling fit to burst,
mumbling of hunger, restlessness and thirst.
Known them draw blood from a fingertip. Known
them attack a flick of hair. Known them leap
off unpredictable ledges and fall asleep
on a doorstep as if it were a throne.
Known them like company but walk alone.
Known those eyes that search yours then grow bored
and turn into themselves, the world gone flat
as sadness. Known them fixed on the faint pat-
ter of rain or the spinning of an old record,
or shirt-sleeves dangling from the ironing board.
Known them asleep for hours. Known the grace
of their long backs arching. Known their mad
devil-possessed scramblings, their jihad
on anything that moves from place to place.
Known set expressions flit across one’s face
as if they were ghosts of thoughts or faint beams
of perception. Known them stretch out and purr
at the slightest touch of brush on tangled fur.
Known them hunched, lost in enormous daydreams
of killing and sexual capers. Watched their schemes
of world domination come a cropper when
distracted by a paper clip on the floor.
Watched them in two minds at an open door
unable to commit. Saw them expect ten
lives, not nine. Saw them hiss and sharpen
their claws on furniture so far pristine.
Saw right into their souls, or what I thought
were souls. Saw the dead things they brought
into the house. Saw them fat and thin,
and saw them end soon after they begin.
Have shared rooms with them. Fed them. Played a while
with the young ones. Have yet to see one cry
though sickening to death. Have seen them die
in old age. Have seen them crocked, immobile,
wounded, run down, left in a bloody pile.
Have known the names to which they gave no heed,
the names of spaces in the human mind.
Have known them hanker after their own kind.
Have known their stomachs blown out from pure greed.
Have known the loss of them. Their mirrored need.