The cat’s song

Mine, says the cat, putting out his paw of darkness.
My lover, my friend, my slave, my toy, says
the cat making on your chest his gesture of drawing
milk from his mother’ s forgotten breasts.

Let us walk in the woods, says the cat.
I’ ll teach you to read the tabloid of scents,
to fade into shadow, wait like a trap, to hunt.
Now I lay this plump warm mouse on your mat.

To the Quarry and Back

White hail pelting the frozen bog,
I’ m stuck in the first line of January,
following my host’ s dog
on his walk through the stone century,
around the quarry, slices of marble and mud,
past a herd of miners exhaling smoke,
past a barn smelling of merde,
and back to where I’ m stuck and broke.
The fucking dog barks at the night,
mad at the stars all his life and then again.
I rethink kicking him out,
but being cool, I let him in.

Dog Music

Amongst dogs are listeners and singers.
My big dog sang with me so purely,
puckering her ruffled lips into an O,
beginning with small, swallowing sounds
like Coltrane musing, then rising to power
and resonance, gulping air to continue —
her passion and sense of flawless form —
singing not with me, but for the art of dogs.
We joined in many fine songs — "Stardust,"
"Naima," "The Trout," "My Rosary," "Perdido."
She was a great master and died young,
leaving me with unrelieved grief,
her talents known to only a few.

By Subtraction

The wind shakes the chimes
into the siding, and the dog shakes too
though he doesn’ t wake you
as I carry you to the bedroom. Small mouth
sipping breath, you are fish-strange,
bejeweled in the dimness of the microwave’ s
nightlight. As I turn my back to the bulb
I make your form in my arms a dark weight
but you are no anchor. Together
we are sloops trailing a tiny wake in the carpet.
In the dark it’ s hard to navigate the furniture
so I count distance — five paces
from the tile to the sofa. From the sofa,

Night Watch

Chico whines, no reason why. Just now walked,
dinner gobbled, head and ears well scratched.
And yet he whines, looking up at me as if confused
at my just sitting here, typing away, while darkness
is stalking the back yard. How can I be so blind,
he wants to know, how sad, how tragic, how I
won’ t listen before it is too late. His whines are
refugees from a brain where time and loss have
small dominion, but where the tyranny of now
is absolute. I get up and throw open the kitchen door,

Such Simple Love

All night long I hear the sleepers toss
Between the darkened window and the wall.
The madman’ s whimper and the lover’ s voice,
The worker’ s whisper and the sick child’ s call —
Knowing them all

I’ d walk a mile, maybe, hearing some cat
Crying its guts out, to throttle it by hand,
Such simple love I had. I wished I might —
Or God might — answer each call in person and
Each poor demand.

A Portrait of a Dog as an Older Guy

When his owner died in 2000 and a new family
moved into their Moscow apartment,
he went to live with mongrels in the park.
In summer there was plenty of food, kids
often left behind sandwiches, hotdogs and other stuff.
He didn’ t have a big appetite,
still missing his old guy.
He too was old, the ladies no longer excited him,
and he didn’ t burn calories chasing them around.
Then winter came and the little folk abandoned the park.
The idea of eating from the trash occurred to him