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American Life In Poetry

Austin Smith lives in rural Illinois and is an acute observer of the world at hand. This poem is from his book Flyover Country, published by Princeton University Press.

Cat Moving Kittens

We must have known,

Even as we reached

Down to touch them

Where we’d found them

Shut-eyed and trembling

Under a straw bale

In the haymow, that

She would move them

That night under cover

Of darkness, and that

By finding them

We were making certain

We wouldn’t see them again

Until we saw them

Crouching under the pickup

Like sullen teens, having gone

As wild by then as they’d gone

Still in her mouth that night

She made a decision

Any mother might make

Upon guessing the intentions

Of the state: to go and to

Go now, taking everything

You love between your teeth.