Silence Always Happens Suddenly

by Mary Jo Bang

She had been talking about the story
where the cat had been belled.

Now the cat sat alone, learning.
Why learn behaving, slinking, fetching?
Why? No reply. The telephone rang.

It’s the biology mistress, the cat said.

The fine print zeitgeist was act,
and consequence —
a mirror image inference, the perfect mate.

The clear message was: the world’s full
of fear, finessed slightly more.

Death, said the cat, as it lifted a souvenir
trinket mermaid castle from the fish tank,

is day plummeting
behind a cruise missile set for a mid-sized city.

Published on October 4, 2010

First published in Harvard Review 38