When I was young,
my mother had a cat she called yardbird,
because, she said, the ripples his shanks
made as he strolled our street
reminded her of a night in Tunisia;
a place that waited for her most evenings
beneath a diamond wieghted with nickles,
under shades draped in faded red.
Bird would follow her there,
a slink of sinew and strut around shadow.
Sphinx-posed on her lap, she would offer him
dips in a glass of warm Dewars,
run rough hands through his black coat
and whisper "I would wear you like a skin,
heat-heavy in alleys and jazz dives, my tongue
tight for the taste of something more than this."
When he died, alone while the house slept,
she buried him by the back steps; his cool bones
left to dust themselves in a shoebox laced
with shots of scotch, shards of pressed wax.
She never went back to Tunisia; sat instead,
when the weather was good, on the last rise
of a low stoop, and watched the paper mill stacks
flick their soot tails against the smooth night sky.