Fight Me (poem)
“Fight me,” says Mr. Boots. He smiles
upside down, beaming, chin above whisker pads
At the yellow goldfish whose mouth
Expresses opening and closing, pushing in and out, no more
She cannot answer to his mocking
Nor can he mock her as he’d like
But matches every parting of her lips
With a widening of his eyes
She worries only for her friend
Circling, circling, angrily, he has been this way
From the start, a goldfish of red scales, always
Breaching, stirring wavelets in the tank
Bringing the cleaner fish nosing from self-burial
Behind the skull-faced diver
“Stop! Who ever heard of it?” she pleads. “Fight a cat!”
Mr. Boots licks his paw, her companion bumps the glass
He says: “You shut up!”
“Both of you,” mutters the cleaner fish. But what does a poor working fish know?
Poppet’s tail stump wags and Boots inhales. “Butter. Dog, are you afraid they’ll catch you?
Does fear make popcorn sweeter?”
Her snout has reached its limit, her peasant paws
“You can’t do anything with those, can you?” he says
No, it seems she can’t excavate a hole
In the carpet, and her tongue is millimeters yet…
Oh, the shame of it.
For human food fumbled to the floor
Is fair game for the pets
“Well…chance and butter. Or, chance and a hundred other things”
Doglike, she changes her mind, digresses:
“Mr. Boots, does the orange cat…? But he seems fat and strong.
I say, do you smell defeat in your enemy?
Is that why you dare take him on?”
“The demon-god, whom in our speech we call
Ooh-Mah, taught my ancestors to caterwaul and spit.
So blessed my kind the deity. Amen.
I don’t,” Mr. Boots adds, “know where long-haired cats come from.”
“Because,” says Poppet, “I do. I mean, the other way round.
I smell hatred on the big dog’s breath, hatred for the little dog.”
The red goldfish has been bubbling wrath all this while, and Boots reminds him:
(2014, Stephanie Foster)