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Cats

In a factory where they make chloramphenicol
          cats          loiter

one—gnarled
          like a woodblock: waterlogged, barnacled
another—thin with an elongated tongue—
          a fireman’s hook
and the third—huge like a calm
          in the Persian Gulf

they roam about the pharmaceutical factory
licking up pills
between plague and cholera
flu and smallpox
hovering among deaths

the cats circumvent all, kings of connivance
and only croaking acquire a skeleton

here a black tom beams, clawing up soil
he sees himself buried in it

and the white—bedraggled by dope
fleecy like feathergrass
soft heart in plumes

the cats surmise they see paradise
and become its supports
as if they were pulling tarpaulin onto themselves
determined to shake down
an apple tree

this paradise beheld

they will step, uniform and discrete
as mechanics along the wing of an airplane
into nothingness

and they’ll let paradise slip from their paws
and dictators will meet them head on
and crush cats with their jackboots

Nero versus the cat
Attila versus the cat
Ivan the Terrible versus the cat
Saint Lawrence versus the cat
Smetana versus the cat
Katz versus the cat
cat versus the cat

yes, a cat’s karate is nothing against statues of dictators

Translated from Russian by: 
Eugene Ostashevsky
Original source: 
Коты
 

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