Slow Learner

by Elizabeth Rees Issue: Fall 2015
The cat in the store window
fits perfectly into his sleep,
doesn’t notice flickers skitter,
no difference between fancy
and shadow, whereas I sleep
on a chair and dream about flies.
Fidgeting tail, I mew.

When the bath fills, I lower my head
over the steam, to stir each pore
from its grave of sleep. Clouds turn
across the seeping, slatted floor, afternoon
beginning to bathe itself: first the paws,
then the peach underbelly. I hide narrow
moons in my fingertips, grow my nails long

to drag the shells of insects
to my stash in the corner.
Now I move from heart
to chest, chakras or rungs, both
rings around my neck, a bell to warn
birds. I sound that sour chime
and the pests always scatter.

Birds think if they follow the wind
they will get far. But I will
eat. Like a pin cushion draws
needles, I will bring them
to my bowl. I am the ninth life
of a cat. This time
I have learned how to live.

Elizabeth Rees's first book, Every Root is a Branch, was published in 2014. She is also the author of four award-winning chapbooks, most recently, Tilting Gravity. Her poems have appeared in Partisan Review, the Kenyon Review, AGNI and New England Review, among others. She works as a poet-in-the-schools in Maryland.