Who Gets to Live Here by William Doreski

Cats on the loose, sizzling,

hissing, rubbing each other raw.

You in the kitchen chatting

with a famous Chinese poet

whose work features on scrolls

and reproduction pottery


peddled in gift shops everywhere.

His purely suede expression

suggests he’s forming a lyric

while attending to every nuance

of your perfected malformation.

You ignore my cries for help,


my attempts to corral the cats

and prevent them from savaging

each other’s most comely smiles.

A tiger whacks a tortoise-shell

with a pawful of sheathed claws

while an orange tabby nibbles


a crouching calico’s neck.

With armsful of blustering felines

I hustle into the garage and catch

a stranger rummaging manuscript

I abandoned twenty years ago.

What forces have you compelled


to bear upon the simple life

I’ve cultivated to contain me?

After waving a rake at the burglar

and locking the tangle of cats

into the garage I’m free to shake

the visiting poet’s hand and learn


how little English he speaks,

how little Chinese I speak,

how little any of us understand

the cries and contortions of cats,

essential elements of landscapes

we aren’t allowed to inhabit.

William Doreski’s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently A Black River, A Dark Fall (Splash of Red, 2018).

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