The Cat is Black

by Nicole Callihan

Nicole CallihanCats

or what someone said Vievee Francis says to write when you reach a wall

Reader, having reached the wall,
and finding the cat, black,
and the frigate stalled in the harbor,
and my mother, whom I’ve worshiped,
though with complications, sneezing
in Oklahoma, or only in the poem,
sneezing, the spray spreading blue
ink, the sallow font, reader, without
pretense, I say, I have loved, and been
loved, reader, but what to do after
the acknowledgement? The cat is black,
and I’ve yet to eat. The cat is black,
and the tiny violin plays its sad song.
The cat is black, and the cashmere bleating,
which is to say, I’ve made this thing
from the living thing. I’ve lived
and made the thing, reader, and what more
might I mention but the clipped fingernail
of a moon? There is nothing new,
Nothing is new, and it’s nearly a new year.
Only the year is new, and New York City.
Tam reckless with the arcane. I am not
the first hungry woman, not even
in this poem am I the first hungry woman,
but god, the hunger, reader, and the cat
with the broken spine dragging itself
to the back room to die alone. My brother,
afternoons, boiled the skin off raccoons,
and I steal this too. It was not my water
that boiled. These are not my walls,
reader, nor does the cat belong to anyone,
not even itself, or does it? Z says she stood
in the shower and patted down her body.
This is the space that I inhabit, she said.
Meanwhile, I smell the stench in my robe.
Meanwhile, the cancer drugs, the paper cuts.
The little bowl of milk I leave out
for the cat, should he choose to return.

Last updated November 23, 2022