We knew it was dead before we
knew it was a cat. In the half-light
of a missed sunset focused by
a shuttered eye, I mistook its stripes
—grey upon grey upon white—
for a fox, spread, inside-out;
an exhibit I’d seen in the scrubby green
of the dusty banks of the roads
I’d been travelling on since always.
We got closer and I’d said
it was sad before I felt it
was sad. Its stillness so loud
it drowned out the passing wheels, and
its body so neat—all four white feet
stretched out before us,
its lean back towards an
imaginary fireplace—I had to look
harder than I wanted, had to check
it was really gone.
We knew it was sad, then.
Confirmed to each other, and
while you searched for what we could do
I looked and didn’t look
at that still-tended coat,
wondering if it was warm, and
that mouth dried out in a restless cry,
and I thought, we are complicit.
STEFF HUMM is a writer and editor, currently working towards her PhD in Cultural Studies at the University of Nottingham. Find her on Twitter and Instagram at @steffhumm.