“The Study of Nature” by Diane Lockward

Diane Lockward


Every morning for thirty years you’ve kissed me,
the same kiss, one neat peck, chaste

as toast. Look through the window.
Take a lesson from the cat that visits our yard:

Hide in the bushes. Be still, every muscle poised.
Observe me as I stroll across the patio and enter

the garden, your ears raised and stiff, as if listening
to some ancient primal call, some deep-throated

growl. Catch the scent of my heated blood drifting
through the leaves. Let it tickle the touch organs

of your whiskers. Size me up. Picture your mouth
stuffed. Think of the different ways

to take me. When I’ve bent over to smell a rose
or nibble a berry, unaware of your upraised fur,

the vertical lift of your tail, sneak out of the bushes,
one paw in front of the other. Go slow, glide,

as if not moving at all. Imagine me all catnip
and cream. Then pounce. Lick me

with your rough tongue. Make me pray
for mercy. Devour me down to the bone.

from Rattle #16, Winter 2001

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