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The Cats

ISSUE:  Winter 2004

Gregor Mendel, 1857

Up the monastery walls, the brewery’s yeast-scent
huffles. And the dusty cat, stretched high
over warm stones, swings its blunt snout this way
and that, yeast-ward and monk-ward, from
release to salvation. In the bright sun
her irises, like shutters, close,
leaving just a strip of liquid glint, the pupil’s
vertical box.

I am sleepless today, the cats of my childhood
mewling all night, their phantom shapes
alit on my ceiling. Cat backs, stretched, flexed,
cat tails in counterpoint. Such mystery,
to be of the body perpetually.

We are minds here. And hands. And a corporal longing
that finds release in… the kitchen’s bounty:
braised cutlets, a rose hip sauce balanced by vinegar!

Still trapped in promise, my pea vines are nothing
but binary leaves, dual lobes in the dark loam… .

Last winter, with a blue that wedded
oxblood and royalty,
we painted our bookcase backboards.
Great swaths of such vivid blue! Half sea, half ember,
behind the leather volumes.

Often, in dreams, I sit in our library’s great expanse,
the abbot and brothers around me—
as they are in waking—
and the works of Aquinas, Keppler,
Linnaeus, Sophocles, open before us.
My dreams replace our bookcase backboards
with vivid glass, a haunted, oxblood blue, translucent
in that timelessness.
Through arched windows,

stained sunlight hovers,
and the parquet floor—as it does in waking—
gleams from the sweep of our woolen slippers.
But the light I am drawn to,
in dream after dream,
glows out from the bookcase shelves,
slender and patternless. A glass-cast, vertical,
feral blue, it shimmers from gaps
where the works of the mind are missing.


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