He and the cat were separated as though by a pane of
glass, because man lives in time, in successiveness, while
the magical animal lives in the present, in the eternity of
Jose Luis Borges
To hide in a city—sky cluttered with smokestacks
and old billboards, narrow orange roads
unnamed. As if we can hide from
ourselves, and northern winter
nothing but a cerebral trick, the fire
of sunset drifting through
specks of snowfall. He says to me,
“Jessica, I don’t love you,” cupping my face
and kissing me. Why are we hiding?
I notice the open space of his sidelong gaze
toward the window, white of his eyes, sheer
curtains half-closed. As if time is trying
to drop out from under us,
and in that first cognizance
of falling, we are lovers again. On the roof,
I would lie in his lap and he’d rest
his hands on my chest. The heartsickness
in us, the tiredness.
A window opens and someone
throws a bag of trash
onto the street. A window opens
and a cat’s face appears.
A window opens and the city looks
with heat and smog. Perhaps I’m sick
of truth, too, the out-of-sightness,
I know we can’t keep on this way.
From the roof I see a building
dirty and colorless except for the top floor,
which is burnt yellow, its cement crumbling,
its terrace holding a small garden,
hanging vines, which seems magical
except to those who live there,
boiling their lentils with only salt, scrubbing
their clothes on an old washboard
until the skin on their fingers
cracks from soap and bleach, before
hanging them out to dry.
And there goes the cat, zigzagging
through the flapping bed sheets and blouses,
back and forth.
Squalorly Lit | September 2015