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2 poems by Stephanie Burt

A Feline Convalescence

Having come back from the veterinary dentist

with three canines extracted, I can't decide

if I'm a handheld holepunch or your cat.

Consider the evidence:

I usually sleep on your desk, where I am proud

to sit on your work, which is my work, and must be pressed flat.

I often commit justifiable homicide

on scraps of paper. I bare a prominent tooth

as a way to reveal my aggressively jocular nature.

I like to see myself as a well-honed blade,

your day as my sheath.

I’m hollow inside but I don’t mind. I require

grip strength if you pick me up. I like when you scratch

me under the ears and offer me fish on a fork.

As for my identity…. I guess that settles that.

Turkeys In Harvard Yard

They don’t belong, but who does?

Maybe their plan is to burn the whole place down.

Look at them directing the few pedestrians,

overruling stoplights. They have come to see

one another as heroes of distributive justice,

travelers from a pre-Columbian dawn.

Their ruffs rise up. Their collars make good fans,

their wattle-strewn beaks the vehicles

for once-presumed-impossible demands.

They remember when everything was icicles,

expensive gutters stacked with snow, their toes

on crusted ice the only sound.

Now they’re our anti-fascists.

While we were limp in our beds,

sleep crusting our narrow lashes,

they had already taken control of the town.


Stephanie Burt is Professor of English at Harvard. Her most recent books are AFTER CALLIMACHUS (Princeton UP, 2020); DON'T READ POETRY: A Book About How to Read Poems (Basic, 2019)l and ADVICE FROM THE LIGHTS (Graywolf, 2017), a National Endowment for the Arts Big Read selection. Follow her on Twitter @accommodatingly.


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