The Night Queen by Kayla Cook

The Night Queen

 Originally published on this site on Sep. 16, 2020; By Kayla Cook

There was a feral cat on my porch the other night, 

her sleek body stretched out along the step. 

Such was not the place for so fine a creature

yet there she was all the same.

She held herself as if she had no care at all, 

and yet it seemed  

a great weight was nestled in the hollow 

between her hackles.

I wondered if other cats noticed it, too, 

or if they just passed by, 

oblivious, envious shades in the night.

She stepped off the porch with a royal grace, 

blue-grey head held high, 

furry tail carelessly erect.

Her poise was so flawless that 

I almost didn’t notice the ribs poking 

through her loose hide or 

the matted fur of her belly.

This Night Queen sauntered off, 

doing her utmost best to hide 

her pain from the world.

I bid her a silent farewell,

understanding well her struggle. 

Appearances must be kept up lest 

our weakness be used against us.

A few days later, I saw her 

lying on my porch again, 

and I was happy I had put milk out that morning.

But she didn’t touch the milk, 

didn’t move for a whole day. 

She hadn’t lost her grace; 

though stiff, she looked no less formidable.

So complete was her power 

and mastery over appearances 

that not even the vultures bothered her.

As I reverently pick up her body to bury it, 

I imagine the other cats picturing her 

ruling over finer courts than this neighborhood.

Would they ever guess, 

in their jealousy and awe, 

that in the new lands she’d left them for,

only the worms marvel at her decaying splendor—

that the Night Queen is no more?


Copyright Ⓒ 2020 by Kayla Cook