for Robert

This is how we met:

I was sleeping under your porch, tiny teeth kitten-sharp, a wild thing. You could smell me a block away, and for the longest time you thought something had fallen behind the fridge and rotted away. You tore up the floorboards looking for it, and there I was. You drove me out into the night with the end of a broom. For the next six months I and my sisters came back after midnight, city lights reflecting off the slick film at the back of our eyes, scratching at the chicken wire you’d put around the porch to keep us out. Our hands were too weak for digging.

We were bad at speaking, mouths too full of gravel for enunciation. Still, we listened to your voice through the thin walls as you practiced, running a poem over a dozen times, a hundred, to get the phrasing right, the cadence. We mouthed along. You sang, and we sang, a beat late, a measure: good mimics but lousy prophets. You closed the windows and the curtains and we pressed against the walls.

Later we found you during the riots, head bloody on the sidewalk. We stood over you, and sang.