Matthew Westbrook

The Difference Between a Housecat and a Cathouse

Call me sluggard, but Saturdays I sleep late.
Or I wake and stay in bed,
contortionist sheets at my feet.
       Why waste time
doing things? When people defend their right
to defend themselves—when the claws
come out, or the lawyers—the one word
I have for them is bor-ing.
       Let the sons of toil
haul their tons of soil, split hairs
over territory, scribble pencils to stub-ends.
I’d rather close the shade and gambol,
amend the lexicon of the pheromone,
be a no-show at the shower. Let air grow redolent
with pleasure, propagating scent. Put a bunch of civets
together, get all their musk-sacs going
head-wedge and tail-switch
over nose-cave: let it reek like mink,
hint of funk. Hot breath in a slattern’s ear.
Re-ver-ver-berating purr. Which brings me back
to distinctions, the subtle and the unsubtle,
and why I’m lying in bed
in the first place, neither chat nor chateau
owner: it’s Saturday and I’m sleeping late.
The maids aren’t on duty—they’re draped
across their own cots this long, lax day—
and, anyway, I’m well taken care of.
Call it the intimate air’s propinquity.
My skintight attire. The minx that makes
the difference mix.
       Call it whatever words
call to mind, rubbing against you just so.

Matthew Westbrook’s poems have appeared in Poetry, The Hopkins Review, and Poetry East, among other journals. In 2007 and 2011 he received Individual Artist Awards in poetry from the Maryland State Arts Council.