Leaping weightless
to the wood deck rail,
the cat perches, a tawny
outline in winter sun,
the fine hairs of his coat
a halo of gold, cold light.

Beyond him a frieze
of dry blond seedpods
shimmers too, as if
lit from within, the pale
sun a fine wine with
hints of chill wind.

The cat settles, a sphinx
on the splintery rail,
gazing at his domain,
his desert, his kingdom,
looking, it seems
about to doze; but

follow his gaze, his slow
blink: all at once
see the shape he sees
a dark bird half-hidden
in a tree, silhouetted
by a fringe of light.

The scene shifts
into a new idiom,
no longer sleepy or benign,
crackling with static.
They watch each other
feigning nonchalance.

The bird preens, then
shakes out a shower
of dazzling motes;
the cat, whiskers gilded,
stock-still as before,
is electrically awake.

He takes the measure
of the space between,
tolerates, for now,
the upstart challenging
his reign:  puny but
with the gift of wings.

Liza McAlister Williams

If you have any comments on this poem, Liza McAlister Williams would be pleased to hear from you.