Fight Me (poem)

Oil painting of upside down cat face and goldfish

 

 

Fight Me

 

“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

“Chance.”

“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:

“Fight me”

 

 


Fight Me

Oil painting three alley catsCaught Alone
Male and Female

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(2014, Stephanie Foster)

 

 

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