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"Song, with Angus

thewhitecalfkicks.jpg

The cat with his underbite looks like a bony old man
without teeth. Not
Grendel who tortures blind rodents and once
that rabbit, meek
as Christ.

When I curl the fine-toothed comb under his chin,
he rolls his blue eyes.
When I rake out his chops
he closes
his eyes.
As I comb out the top of his head,
whorled like a grey thumbprint,
he folds his hands in front of him,
then sets his heart down
on top of them
against his pink pads.

When I find a flea kicking in the comb
I mash it into
nothing, then wonder—
Why have I done this?

Oh what do these two hands want?!

Some people wrap their hands together
like a closed tulip
on arm stems
and pray. Others
swing their arms like oars
on either side of a boat,
scudding over dark water.

Me,
I wring my hands until
they throb,
then pull them apart again.
Their sadness limned so fine
I can sing it
in a key
that's almost the key of
joy.

And for a while I am safe from myself.

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"Song, with Angus" was published in Deborah Slicer's collection The White Calf Kicks.

Poet and philosopher Deborah Slicer earned a PhD and an MFA at the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns Fellow. Naomi Shihab Nye selected Slicer’s first poetry collection, The White Calf Kicks (2003), for the Autumn House Poetry Prize. Her work has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s public radio program The Writer’s Almanac and in the anthologies Red, White and Blues: Poets on the Promise of America (2004) and The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (2005).

Pared and direct, Slicer’s poetry inhabits both interior and natural wilderness. Reviewing The White Calf Kicks, Deborah Bogen observed, “This is a poet who, knowing her earthly limits, remains obsessively preoccupied with both the difficult and the joyous mysteries of life. Her experience is so direct, so without interpretive interlude that she moves from Montana landscape to metaphysical moment in a heartbeat.”
 
Slicer has taught at the University of Montana and the Hawthorne School and has been involved with the Missoula Writing Collaborative. She lives near Missoula.

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