Tonight I’m featuring a poem by Melissa Huckabay that speaks to the contradiction of Houston summers, and while it is not yet summer now, we have this same sense of limbo now under stay-at-home orders.
And my cats are my office patronuses, sometimes jumping onto my desk while I’m Zooming a class, prancing in the camera for my students. I think they like it? I know it greatly entertains me.
The first time I encountered the word ailuromancy was in Erin Morgenstern’s book The Night Circus, which you all should read as soon as you’ve finished reading Melissa’s wonderful poem.
Ailuromancy, or Divination Using Cats
When the cat washes her ears, it’s time for rain.
I hear the patter of child feet and
droplets, five-year-old boy-limbs rattling
against the walls and leaking roof.
In Houston summers, we have no choice:
Either it’s the hot, impudent sun,
stretching its arched back, each vertebra taking
more space, or it’s the rain wringing us
out, bathing our lazy, sultry afternoons
like a scorching washcloth or a cat’s rough tongue.
The jailed animal of the boy’s body must break free.
He is fearless—the sun might turn his shoulders
a willful red, he might pant like a
sweltering dog-mouth, but he will run with no thought
of banged shins or scarlet ears or wet shirts.
I watch the squinting cat—dreading the heat,
praying for rain, but not too much.
She closes painted-yellow eyes and buries
her nose in fur. The sky is blue, unforgiving,
so I opt, for now, for wily shins,
restless legs ricocheting, the hum of a TV,
the dim living room’s solid, closed door.
Go to this month’s first Poem-A-Day to learn how to participate in a game as part of this year’s series. You can have just a little involvement or go all the way and write a cento. I hope you’ll join in!
Melissa Huckabay is a Houston-area teacher, poet, fiction writer, and playwright. Her poetry has been featured in Remembered Arts Journal and The Inkling, and her short plays have appeared on several stages in Houston. A University of Texas at Austin honors graduate, Melissa has taught high-school and middle-school English and also worked as a writer in residence for Writers in the Schools. Before becoming a teacher, Melissa was an award-winning journalist and public-relations writer. When she’s not writing, Melissa is a mom, an actress, and a musician who believes in the power of the arts to change the world.