"The Pet"

"The Pet"

"The Pet"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Jan. 14 2003 12:16 PM

The Pet

Listen to Cate Marvin reading this poem.

I rode him through the village, smiling.
He tossed his tasseled mane in distress.
The villagers took his gesture as vanity,
and made no attempt to rein him back.
Camped at night by stream and fire,

he seemed to think stories were in order.
The ghoulish tales that twisted out his mouth
no longer frightened me. On leaving,
I'd taken on a certain complacency. Later,
he'd characterize my silence as merely

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mean. But what is mean about a mouth
that, having no stories, claims it can provide
no flower for the ear, no wine for the wind?
I tried: I told the tale of him, which he
(the version being mine) was not much

interested in. But all of us; the fattening
moon, the yewey trees, the sharp-toothed
stars who combed their glowing backs against
the sky like cats; we laughed. And now
that I had left, where would I take him?

He was vehicle and, as such, responsibility.
He was deadening, tiresome, and necessary.
I made ourselves a home and kept him gently
as a pet. Visitors often wonder aloud,
How do you manage to keep such a creature

inside? The floors are stained with his keep.
I tell them my heart is huge and its doors
are small. Once I took him in he grew. Now
I cannot remove him without killing him,
which, frankly, I have never wanted to do.

Cate Marvin's second book, Fragment of the Head of a Queen, will appear in 2007. She is an assistant professor at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York.