Poem: A Cat Lover’s Guide to the Bell Curve

From his new collection “Mr. Tobones,” Brooks Haxton gives us the poet as the trickster. And to be honest, I’m so tired of the bell curve and how it comes across like Halley’s Comet every time — but instead of bringing joy, it’s just a footnote to pedantic racism. Here, Haxton reminds me that there is something spectacular in a cat’s nine lives, and if it isn’t an intelligence, tests certainly don’t matter. Selected by Reginal Dwayne Bates

by Brooks Haxton

pigs may be the smartest
domestic animals,
But cats look next to pigs
Talent for Diet, Caterwalking
Sex, longevity and hygiene.
The sows suffocate their children
by accident, or swallow them
Alive on a whim. i have seen them
put their breakfast in the dirt
And eat it hot for lunch, their faces
stained with dirt. poor,
Some experts say they are less intelligent
compared to the rich. this they prove
with numbers from a test
Joe, I’m just guessing,
That’s what they use on pigs.

Reginald Dwayne Bates He is a poet and a lawyer. He created Freedom Reads, an initiative to curate microlibraries and install them in prisons across the country. His latest collection of poems, “Phelan”, explores the experience after imprisonment. Her 2018 article in The New York Times Magazine about her journey from teenage carjacker to working lawyer won a National Magazine Award. Brooks Haxton is a poet, a translator and a non-fiction writer, whose latest collection is “Mr. Tobones” (Knoff, 2021). He teaches creative writing at Syracuse University and Warren Wilson College.

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