Nine Lives Divided by Two

I watch my cat try consciousness then conscience.
He discards the latter before it does him harm,
but he limps, less limbic than when our attendance
had been mandated by the witch’s charm.
The wizened wizard laughs at my alarm.
He and his malwife burnish brightwork plates
of steel they lay upon me, magic weights
that hold me fast. I am under their control.
‘We will weigh him, kill him, weigh while life abates,
and then know, by subtraction, what the soul

amounted to, how much it weighed in grams,’
his malwife cackles. I am sure they’re mad.
We had come here thinking we’d unmask their scams,
but their spells had lamed my cat, and now they had
me and my soul strapped to its launching pad.
My shambling cat comes nearer to me, purrs.
The witch proffers a mouse. The cat demurs
and his mind meets mine. He says, ‘Your soul’s a function
of their imagination, and of yours.
So do not worry. Don’t ask them for unction.’

‘All right,’ I say. ‘We’ve watched galaxies unfold.
The beauty of forever’s overrated
and youth is only valued by the old
because they’ve lost it somewhere while they waited.’
The cat pretends my soul is reinstated.
It swings a lightning paw. Claws kill the witch.
My weights take wing and the ignition switch
the wizard presses backfires. Blowback fries
him where he stands — or stood. We’ll go our way,
my cat and me, and live as if we’re rich.

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