HomeSouthern VoiceTwo Poems by Katherine Burnette

Two Poems by Katherine Burnette

The Edge of the Pool

I shift further into the crunchy leaves,
there’s no need for stealth.
She doesn’t see me in the gloom
angled half on half off the dock
as if any minute she’ll slip below
the cool green dark water.
I crouch closer, easing forward on muscled legs
waiting to make sure her naked limbs
stay on the flat bleached wooden dock.

I chuff several times.
She stirs startled, a hand picking up
then pushing her upright
She looks for me in the dusk.
I chuff again, a beloved childhood sound
tied up with memories of barkers and balloons
the backdrop music of the carousel.

Sinuous but less certain with age
she draws her robe over her shoulders
not with grace but with dignity.
Her eyes are still closed
She strains to listen over the tune
of organs bellowing memories and the creak of the dock.

She knows—no, she hopes I’ve come for her
all rippling orange fur, incandescent jade eyes
and large white teeth in a silent yawn.
Her breath would not disturb a gnat
so faint and she shakes with its birth again and again.

No longer in double plaits, her graying hair ripples out
searching like the tendrils of an established vine
She sits still but she can smell me on the honeysuckle air.
Her legs weaken and quit trying for purchase on the shore.

Without looking, she reaches back and twines her arm
around my thick ropy neck, sighing in contentment or resignation.
Warm and familiar from childhood
I crouch on my haunches happy to
breathe in her feminine and familiar scent.



The hairs on his coat are tipped in tiny silver sequins
giving him a metallic look as he slinks quietly about.
The dark tabby lines of his coat brighten to pewter in the sun
His eyes are translucent and non-wavering in their regard
They eschew toys or things we throw about for him.

He is a big gray tabby rescued from the shelter,
picked out of a tiny room teeming with cats big and small.
Sanguine green eyes looked at me, judging.
I took him to the vet, hiding his immediate appearance
from my husband who would have said “no.”

My mom had green eyes.
I missed her every day
and the pain of her passing would not pass.
To dull the ache, I chose a huge cat that drank from the faucet,
and gave him the love that I could not give to my mom.

He commandeered the sofa, the den rug, the bed, though only a corner.
It was hard for him to trust our arms,
to trust that they would not throw him out or hurt him.
He would not say where he’d been but it must have been horrible
because it took him months to sit near, but never touching.

He now winds himself along my shower soaked legs
fully embracing the wetness as I hop around.
Later, he refuses to sit on my lap
but rubs his large head against mine
after terrifying me with a leap onto the back of the sofa.


Katherine Burnette published her debut novel Judge’s Waltz in 2021 and won a Pinnacle and a Feathered Quill award. Her poetry has appeared in Flying South, Red Fez and She earned her B.A. and J.D. degrees from Wake Forest University and an MFA degree in Creative Writing at Queens University of Charlotte. She lives in Oxford, North Carolina, where she serves as a state district court judge.

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