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Like, As, As If

                                    Juliana Gray


This little black and white cat,
rescued from a shelter, wears
his ill-fitting tuxedo like

a high school junior at the prom,
dancing painfully, aware
of the condom curled in his wallet

like a smirk, the pharmacist’s
or his father’s, already disappointed
with his only son’s failure to act,

as Hamlet did—or didn’t—when faced
with Claudius, seeming to pray,
and sheathed his hungry dagger like

a puffer fish retracting its spines
after the eel has fled, melting
into the coral reef as if

retiring in victory,
high-fiving his fishy friends,
probably getting lots of tail

like Claudius with Gertrude, the prince
in Wittenberg, the pharmacist
and dad, the high school senior

looking sharp in his tailored tux
and spats like the white-tipped paws
of a black and lightly dreaming cat.


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