The day is wearing a white lab coat.
It is experimenting on us,
which is funny until you stop thinking about it.
Today I am going to drive my car
up into the mountain of distraction
where with my cat, Helix, I shall picnic.
Towards him I feel only slightly parental.
Only enough to feed him tiny
slivers of moral instruction
which he devours daintily without blinking.
Helix doesn’t have a twin.
He is grey, and his left front paw
hurts him, though he has never spoken of it.
Past the blankness of his irises
is a lake of sadness, from which he was torn
many months ago, his mouth and tongue
frozen in a repetition of searching.
His mother was a sofa, a whole
neighborhood of comfort, support,
understanding, doors left unlocked,
kick the can, let’s leave the neighbors
with the kids without even
formally informing them and drive
a car of distraction along the vanished town
of Calico up into the mountains
where we shall picnic. His father
was a cloud, as are all the fathers
of cats. Try to find one. The trail leads
through wet grasses down
to the culvert where I taught
myself to smoke like a wet idea
from which I have just withdrawn,
leaving only the tenderness.
There was a girl named Holly.
We knew each other in the park.
We were pineys.
—Matthew Zapruder ’89
Reprinted with permission from American Linden
(Tupelo Press, 2002)