We didn’t really need another
soft mouth to dote on, menagerie full

already of half-spoken demands for attention,
but something drew me to you.

Free of pet-shop guilt, no transaction
of bodies for profit, we welcomed you home.

All wool and angles, thin body and bat stares,
you hooked something in my shoulder.

Already you know these corners better than I,
a spear among hair pins. Let the eyes in.

No need to hide. Kitten’s coat is a patchwork
of tortoiseshell run-off, half-mask bare.

She weighs no more than the adoption forms
I threw upon the desk, but there is steel

inside those half-moon claws. She cuts tracks
in everything she touches. But it is no matter:

I’ll roll the ball and smile at her stumbles.
Silence is the most selfish affection today.

The worst kitten season on record, they said
at the shelter. Twenty today alone. We could take

only one, leaving her littermates
for a spell, until their time moves off

to the backroom. One survivor in our midst,
she tumbles across my lap, looks up and sees nothing.

At night, I will sleep lightly for fear
of covering her head in my arms.

No peace in those small moments, she paces
the edges of her realm. Refuge is only a larger cage,

after all. But here her amber eyes will track me
where guilt can always reach.

Her step will be a shadow that grows longer
with every year. Lily bulb eyes settling in damp earth.

My hands are an apology unwelcomed, face juts to mine,
then waits – whisker pads rise as if to bite.

Siobhan Hodge (Western Australia)

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