FNS: Cat by Anna Leahy

Every Friday night we feature a short story, essay, personal narrative, poem,
spoken word, or short film for your enjoyment.

Tonight’s poem is from Anna Leahy

We sleep late this Sunday, while all the church-
goers go to all the churches and then walk in the fresh air,
three-dollar coffees in their hands, warming their gold wedding bands.
We remain in a state aware enough to appreciate the sleep we are half in.

A knock on the door: I jump up to answer.
A woman holds three leashes holding three dogs,
asks, Do you have a cat? as if she is selling cats
like a grade-schooler sells candy bars.
No, I say and start to close the door.
Do you know who does? she asks, a little desperate.
No, I say. We just moved here, as if I will know
my neighbors in due time, know their pets soon.
She looks over her shoulder, as if someone is stalking her.
I was walking my dogs, she says, lifting her handful of leashes
to prove that she has dogs, that she is telling the truth.
A cat ran into the street.

I ask, Does it need a vet? as if I know
where the nearest vet might be. She becomes irritated.
No, but I didn’t want to just leave it there.

But she does just leave it there in the street,
having made her best effort to find the cat’s owner,
having found me and told me, a due diligence.
I go to the bathroom and don two latex gloves.
I put on gym shoes but do not tie the laces.
I go to the back porch and grab a cardboard box,
left from our recent move to this sunny place,
my proof that I told the truth too.

Still in my pajamas, I walk into the street.
Until I put the box down and crouch over the cat,
it does not occur to me that the neighbors might
see me in nightclothes after noontime
or that I, too, might be hit by a passing car,
by a hung-over student or a mother jiggling a toy
behind her back in the face of a squalling toddler,
by someone like me, not expecting to find a woman
in the street after I’ve turned the corner.
But everyone else must be praying or walking.
I face no danger. The body is like any cat’s body.
Were it not for its slack muscles and the blood seeping from
under its head, the cat would be alive. I lift it.
Its eyeball hangs out of its skull, a reminder to me
that I wanted to be a surgeon. A reminder
that a hard knock can fling your insides to the wall.

I place the cat, warm and supple, into the box.
I curl it to fit, to look more like a live cat.
Its injuries are a secret. I close the lid, tuck flaps
under so that the box will stay shut. I carry
the box to the garage, set it next to the bin outside.
If anyone comes by asking, it will not be in the trash.
But no one knows to come here, to us,
so my lover will pace the box into the bin one morning
and head off to work

I will stay in bed a little late
that day, listening to the roar of the garbage truck, its arms
raising each bin as it makes its way down the street
toward our house. I will remember the woman’s arm
rising to show me leashes, the dogs, and, for the first time,
I will think the cat may have run from the dogs.
I will remember the cat, curled in the box,
and the other ones, put to sleep in old age
and buried in my mother’s yard.
Each lid clanks open, all the contents hauled away.

Anna Leahy’s poetry collection Aperture is recently out from Shearsman Books. Her co-authored nonfiction book Generation Space: A Love Story and her nonfiction book Tumor are forthcoming in 2017. She teaches in the MFA and BFA programs at Chapman University, where she edits the journal TAB. Find out more at www.generationspace.com and www.amleahy.com.

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