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Here’s a story I have been dying to tell

about how Death, in the form of a cat,


loitered in my dreams, luring me to let her

into my home, meowing shrilly if I didn’t,

if I as much as tried to make it

to the door with no sign of letting her in.


The air was like a current, buoying her voice

across the fence so that I began to fear

her nuisance would sooner become mine.


She made me believe that I was her friend,

climbing into my lap and licking my palm.

Gratitude crowded the small rooms of my heart

and then, in the midst of all the happiness,

I clearly heard her ask, in a voice

part human and part cat: Can I stay the night?


I tried to move my tongue, at least to scream

but it had turned leaden like cement.


It was then I started to seek a way out.

I rushed to the door and worked the handle

but it had been locked from outside.


A strong wind came in and snuffed out the lights

so that I could hear the cat but not see it.

What did it mean to believe to hate your life

but not enough to let someone end it?


Where was this cat? The strong wind made her cry

so elusive I went down on my knees

and crawled every area of the room,

crying, knocking down furniture, bleeding,

but there was no way I could feel the pain.


The cat must have been seeing me clearly

with her nocturnal eyes, how was it

that my life was tied to an animal’s?

It had to be Death for soon enough,

amidst all the windy chaos, a chorus

tolled in my ears – die, die – but I didn’t die.

Okwudili Nebeolisa is a Nigerian writer whose poems have previously appeared in Threepenny Review, Fireside Magazine, and Strange Horizons, and have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by The Cincinnati Review, Salamander Magazine, and Beloit Poetry Journal. His nonfiction has appeared in Catapult and Commonwealth Writers. You can follow him on Twitter @NebeolisaO.
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23 Jan 2023

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