I like that the neighbor’s cat walks
the block as if he owns it. Sometimes

he finds me when we’re both out
without a thing to do but get

together. When I say, “It’s clear
you have prepared yourself to be

in position if it’s determined
you are one to survive,” he says:

“I admire those who die where they
should not have been.” When I say

I knew a cat who was loved so long
she took without a fuss six months

of saline in her legs, who’d bring
wet gifts, even then, to the back step,

alive and unhurt, he says: “Our crows
are no match for our mockingbirds.”

Some Hear Singing

But here you are walking the dog to the park.
It’s dark. A couple—lumpish, angelic—
cuddle on a bench. You don’t need to see
what they are doing to know they are in love,
or close enough, and easy to avoid.

1999. You might, in general,
be happy, but tonight, specifically,
you are tired. The dog is taking forever
and you find yourself praying for shit like rain.
The stars, if they are out (you watch the ground)

are muted by moonlight. The moon is full
tonight of itself. It’s autumn. October.
Did I mention that? Three months until the new
millennium. Three months before the end
of the old millennium. You’re not sure which

and I’ve heard both. Now this (what happens next)
is startling. You’re walking the dog, remember?
It’s late. The century is almost gone
or just beginning. The couple, if they
were ever there, has moved on, and as your dog

begins her circling, you hear them. Footsteps.
Approaching. As if all the years you were not
a party to came back dancing around you.
You whirl. Nothing, at first, though you see stars now,
then—ah, of course—the leaves. (There must have been

a breeze.) Leaves crackle like stars around you,
layer on layer, too fast for years. You’re me,
and the stars, for once, shine more brightly than
the thought of stars. You want to believe the life
you’ve lived is over. It’s not, I agree.

Michael Smith is a graduate of UNC-G, Hollins College, and the University of Notre Dame, and teaches at Delta State University, where he also serves as editor of Tapestry, a literary journal focusing on the Mississippi Delta. He's published two collections of poetry, How to Make a Mummy, and, Multiverse, a collection of two anagrammatic cycles.

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