The Daughter of Fur

by Marge Piercy

(Originally published in Chiron Review, 1997)

Malkah my orange and lily white cat
was called the apricot shadow
the first weeks she lived under the bed.

Now sometimes I wake in the downy
armpit of night, and she is kneading
my hip and purring, purring.

She comes when I call to her.
She lets me touch her anyplace,
her belly of white peonies

her bannering tail, her sharp ears,
the tender pink roses of her pads.
Mama, she says, kneading me, Mama.

I never trusted my mother, not past
age nine or ten. I loved her with a fine
orange and blue flame, but trust?

A wry joke. Looking into her eyes,
I was schooled in lying. I graduated
cum laude. Sometimes even yet

I lie when I need not, out of habit.
Where have you been? Noplace.
Who did you speak to? No one.

She had to monitor my breasts,
she had to police my hair and lips,
my cunt hatched snapping turtles nightly.

Mother cats don’t worry if kittens
are pretty or docile. They teach
them to hunt and cover their shit.

I learned to do that, rather well.
I am a suitable mother to orange cats
as I would never be to a human child.

We all come dragging flotillas
of tin cans, bones and old clothes,
but I never dream of passing them on.

© Copyright 1997 Marge Piercy