You’re on your white couch, a map and kitten
combined into one thing in your lap,
covering those thigh-scars that are tiny
as a hair’s whisper, but a whisper
that’s just a little less friendly
than the night, and not nearly as shy.
I took your poetry class when I was still shy,
when I took my seat like fleas take to kittens—
as quickly as you saw to me and made me a friend.
We’d go out after class, the whole bar lapping
up your blonde and my red hair, the whispers
of women always in our wake because we made them tiny.
There was a poem I had to read aloud once, my voice tiny
and twenty; I loved that poem all the way from shy
until now. That space is a Godfist of whispering
highways, squirming like roots or new kittens,
threatening to drop from that map to your lap.
Three summers ago we made the road our third friend,
you held that map Bible-tight, like the hand of a friend
you’d almost lost to a bad death, like your own tiny
hand. We found Arizona in the middle of the sun; it lapped
at our faces like a dog who has gotten over shyness
and is willing to touch everything, even the face of a kitten.
We brought home an Arizona kitten orange as a sun-whisper,
something to calm your shouting heart to a gentle whisper.
This summer we got pulled back west—gravity is friendly
when we’re in my car, when we burn the miles, kitten-
curious, to find a new place where we don’t feel so tiny.
We found it and sat around in it, put the place on like a shy
sundress and then laugh-stretched it out, comfortable as a mother-lap.
Back home, a new trip falls from your head to your lap
like a welcome rain. When I think of you like this, a whisper
of that old poem starts in my head, starts out shy
then sings louder This is how I want to remember you, my friend.
You smiling there, the mug of coffee almost too hot, your sips tiny
and unhurried, your only worry what to name your next kitten.
You swore you’d never die, on your kitten’s head, the one in your lap;
but death can be tiny, can whisper in and drive itself around on all your veins,
befriend those smooth roads of you, not nearly as shy.