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  • Rachel Linton

Poetry: Nonfiction

By Rachel Linton

Photo by Jack Plant via Upsplash.

I am hosing out the litterbox

in a hundred-degree weather, because

it is August in California and the cat,

heedless of the seasons,

still needs to shit.

John Keats was an idiot--

how do you get to twenty-three

without figuring out that the truth

is not always beautiful?

You can talk all you want

about beauty and truth,

but sometimes you get one or the other--

summer in California isn’t all coastal,

it’s dry heat and gnats and even

the cactus, which is supposedly

in its ecological niche here in the desert

--a nice way of saying it suffers better

than any other plant--

is thinking about throwing in the towel,

and by and large people like their poetry

beautiful over anything else.

Even Mary Oliver must have been filing

the sharper edges off of things--

all those buzzing insects never bite,

and there are no leeches

in her shining blue ponds,

and she makes even allergies sound

a part of something golden and perfect,

which I can tell you is straight-up bullshit.

But I can’t blame her--the thing about truth

is that you can get it anywhere, the minutiae

of the weeds and the bug bites, and

bad coffee, and the cat showing how grateful

she feels for her nice clean box

by taking a dump as soon as you’re back inside.

Beauty is harder to come by, so instead

I’ll tell you that the light is beautiful,

slanting through the window and silhouetting

the crate myrtle on the hardwood

of the air-conditioned room, and the cat

is soft and purring and flopped on the floor,

like the keeper of a toll bridge,

makes you pet her to pass,

and it will be just the right temperature

to go for a walk,


when the sun goes down.

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