Cats & Angels

The Rebbetzin says angels follow you and defend you when you die — unless
          you speak ill,
in which case the angels are injured. They bruise blue and their mouths
         melt shut
like some crooked river which craves to save you.

Life doesn’t go quite right.
I don’t leap from this porch
and scoop up the black broken cat
the way Audrey Hepburn did,
my hair isn’t cast in the right light
by the street lamp, and you don’t suddenly
realize something about love.
Neither of us does.

Instead, the cat, all bone
wobbles up the street as we watch.
She goes to the cat lady’s house.

Cat ladies, emptying their homes like shoeboxes,
filling them with slabs of salmon, dirty paws.
Bodies curl and stretch —
corners of the room purr or hiss,
her sofa claws at the air and turns its hundred heads.

Nothing is her own.
Any treasure is a love nest,
a violent neighborhood,
is a bed is a weapon is war.
She has given up the graceful sway
of her hips, and stumbles across the moving floor.

Our own angels sit dumb and gnarled,
staring at us with swollen eyes.
They try humming as we laugh about the cat lady —

the fear of turning into her,
the smell her house spits out into the street after it rains.

We sit on our porches,
are sent the chance of selflessness
in the form of fur and heart.
We call those chances filthy and send them back
down the road to the cat lady.
It is our only conversation with her.
“Keep them.”
The angels help her pour dry food,
which rattles into every dish.