PROLONGING
By William Snyder    PROLONGINGShe told me to
wait a little while.
I said okay,
I’ll wait outside.
Ry Cooder, Joni
Mitchell, somebody
in Chains—
they play and play.
I slept last night
in the hollow comfort
of the downstairs couch.
Alone.
I asked her
to come too,
but she decided
against it.Rain falls.
The tip tip
     on a jutting eave
     puddles around me.     COMPANYThe café door open to the street, the seven tables occupied tonight, one by troopers
in uniform. A bony cat slinks through chair legs and rungs. We listen to the calms and quicks of conversations until the owners, two brothers, bring our food—fresh prawn, onion, butter, bread. Suddenly, the cat leaps to our table. I brush it off and the owners chase it, apologize, pat our shoulders, bring fresh wine. The troopers laugh, pound backs. One pings his glass with a fork.The cat creeps back. A trooper tempts it in with coos and a knife, its blade spearing shells. The cat leaps toward the dangle. The trooper raises the knife. The cat eyes the shells, springs again—four, five, six times—claws spread, ears erect, but the knife jerked up just far enough. Someone behind us makes a hiss. The owners polish trays
at the kitchen door. Another leap. The trooper darts his hand, throws the cat and it tumbles. Another hiss. A whistle. The cat leaps, fur-lines taut. The trooper slashes downward, but the cat twists, the blade flashing past. The cat licks its flank. The trooper drops the knife—blade first—but the cat springs aside. We hoot for the cat, clap. The trooper smiles, leans back, thrusts his legs—accepts our applause. A woman glowers, reaches toward the cat. Tail quivering, it licks the bread, the juice and prawn she’s offered.         About the AuthorI have published poems in The Southern Review, Atlanta Review, Poet Lore, Folio,  and Southern Humanities Review among others. I was the co-winner of the 2001 Grolier Poetry Prize, winner of the 2002 Kinloch Rivers Chapbook competition; The CONSEQUENCE Prize in Poetry, 2013; the 2015 Claire Keyes Poetry Prize. I teach writing and literature at Concordia College, Moorhead, MN.

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