Every year around this time
I think of that little boy
with the bright yellow hair
in that book my mother loved,
because she loved everything French,
and wanted me to love it, too. That book
was harder than it looked,
even in English. “What must I do,
to tame you?” asked the little prince,
a boy with yellow hair
who loved a flower, a flower a sheep
might eat if he didn’t get home soon. And then
he was gone. My mother’s
birthday was just last week, early spring, still cold,
some snow on the ground, that time when suddenly,
impossibly, there’s yellow again: the yellowest
yellow there ever was. And then
in a few weeks it’s gone. Or just
changed. Not yellow anymore but
green now, just like all the other green.
She’s been dead for thirty years
and it was thirty years before that
when she first read that book to me aloud
before I could even read. I looked
at the pictures: a boy with yellow hair
and questions spilling out all over. A hat
that was really an elephant
inside a snake. And an ending
that was very sad, though he didn’t die
exactly. He went home.
He loved a flower,
which made that flower unique
among all flowers.
I was reading this cat research–
new research about cats–
that said we don’t really know cats;
there are 58 million pet cats in America
and we don’t really know them.
It said they don’t like their cat food bowl
near their water bowl. Who knew?
So I moved my cat’s water bowl
into the other room. He looked
nonplussed, then rubbed up against my leg
and gave my shin a headbutt.
Previous cat researchers, said this cat researcher,
have hypothesized that cats rub up against you
to mark you with their scent. That’s balderdash,
said this cat researcher. It’s really their way
of affiliating. I liked the sound of that–
affiliating. I also liked the sound of balderdash.
Affiliate comes from the Latin
‘to adopt a son.’ Fillius is Latin for son.
No one knows where balderdash comes from.
Now when my cat rubs up against me
or gives me a headbutt,
I know he wants to affiliate. “You wanna
affiliate?” I ask him in that baby talk
that cat lovers use with their cats
that annoys everyone else including other cat lovers.
I adopted my cat from the animal shelter.
The research isn’t clear, said the cat researcher,
exactly who is adopting who, with all this affiliating
going on. Fifty-eight million and counting.
I pick him up and we affiliate. He sits in my lap,
wise and regal, keeping his own counsel
and dignity, while I babble on in baby talk.
Paul Hostovsky's poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net Awards, the FutureCycle Poetry Book Prize, and have been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer's Almanac, and Best American Poetry. He makes his living in Boston as a sign language interpreter. paulhostovsky.com