Bob’s pandemic beard is the new member
of our household. He pets it as if there were
a kitten crawling across his chin. I say,
“How come you can have a beard-cat but
you won’t let me get a real cat?” A beard-cat
is no use as a cat—it doesn’t jump for the ragged
tips of peacock feathers, doesn’t wake me up
with its wet nose, doesn’t crawl on my chest
and purr when I hear from my dad that my mom
in the Florida hospital isn’t getting better.
The beard-cat doesn’t even meow or growl
or pounce at crows at the window. As I pout,
the beard-cat jumps off Bob’s face and swan dives
into what I imagine is a moment in our post-Covid
future—a silver-lit evening where we are munching
on shrimp tacos under the multicolored garlands
of a Mexican café (in Mexico, perhaps), or where
we are huddling with tourists admiring
Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s dancing Dada dolls
at the new MOMA. As we worry about everything,
all the past and future deaths ricocheting off
the decapitated statues of disjointed piazzas,
all the lost possibilities of lips grazing lips,
the missed handshakes and hugs free-falling
into intergalactic tunnels, the beard-cat is
pirouetting on the rips in time between now
and then. It weaves a flag out of the threads it
has pulled from continuity, tries to surrender
to a dragon with its flame blistering the stratosphere.
Each night, the beard-cat rips the walls off
our bedroom, replacing them with a mass
of undulating orange paws.
Dear beard-cat, please
forgive me for not loving you enough when all
you were trying to do was mark time, to provide
a little salt and pepper colored hair-tainment
to a confined middle-aged couple. When you
are finally ready to say goodbye, promise you’ll
allow me stroke your pale tendrils one last time.
Let me decorate your rough fur with marigolds.
Joanna Fuhrman is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Pageant (Alice James Books 2009) and The Year of Yellow Butterflies (Hanging Loose Press 2015). Recent poems and poetry videos have appeared in Conduit, Fence, NAW, Moving Poems, Triquarterly, Posit, and Volt. She teaches creative writing at Rutgers University and at Sarah Lawrence College’s Writers Village program for teens. Her sixth book of poetry, To a New Era, is forthcoming from Hanging Loose Press in 2021. For more see: joannafuhrman.com