“Cold Front” by Elya Braden

Elya Braden


When the cold front hit, icing the breadbasket
of America, the government banned all household
pets. Too much waste! declared the President,
who’d never walked a dog or stroked a cat.

After the collection centers failed, the National Guard,
with blue efficiency, swept through neighborhoods
armed with dog treats and catnip, cages and flashlights,
poking into closets, peering under porches.

In the teeming cities, hordes of homeless invaded
once overflowing shelters. Later, some were spotted
wearing scarves reminiscent of tabby tails,
hands snugged in fur-lined mittens.

Care Bears™ replaced service animals.
Stepping in for seeing-eye dogs
became a popular form of community service.
Exterminators were busy trapping mice.

With no dogs to walk, people stayed indoors.
I heard the little girl next door cry herself
to sleep, her parents shouting in the kitchen.
The little boy across the street gnawed his nails

to the quick. His sister developed trichotillomania,
harvesting her golden hair like wheat. At the pharmacy,
a line around the block for Xanax, Zoloft, Celexa.
Was it growing colder?

At night, I prowl through our home, my ear
tuned for the tinny jingle of our CoCo’s bell,
expecting a gray swish of tail in the corner of my eye.
I lift a bed-skirt in half-remembered anticipation.

I try to knit but can’t stop my hands from trembling.
I wake to a wet nuzzling near my elbow or a 2 a.m. meow,
then realize it’s the contrail of a dream. We toss her litter box,
her pooper scooper, her collar stitched with tiny hearts,

but keep her furminator on the nightstand, make
an altar of her favorite toys. Now, my husband and I
take turns. Some days, he kneels and licks her bowl.
Others, I curl at his feet and purr.

from Poets Respond
February 3, 2019


Elya Braden: “I’ve been horrified by our President’s denial of global warming, calling it ‘an expensive hoax’ and joking that we could use a little global warming in the face of colder winter storms. His administration’s policy of separating families seeking asylum and his recent statements that he was prepared to declare a state of emergency in order to force the funding for his wall made me wonder what irrational actions he might take in the event of an actual climate disaster, particularly after seeing this article in Travel & Leisure about dangerously cold winter storms brought on by global warming.” (web)

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