It is not October until a stray cat tries to follow you home.
It does not have to be a black cat.
It does not need to have
whiskers warped like whirls of smoke disturbed,
fur matted with ravenous burrs,
frame as gangly as a sapling with bark destined
to keep count of age rings.
The cat can be fat
in an ungluttonous way,
like a harvest moon.
If it's hungry, just feed it the snack cakes
that expired in June.
It is not October until you're trailing a shadow
other than your own. Say, you snagged
the silhouette of a picket fence
on the cuff of your jeans,
or the underbelly
of a scarecrow shaped
like the barn-hound
snoozing on the job.
You keep every shadow under your bed.
in the light, they grow into your undersized school shoes,
scuttle about, make carpeted floor curse like wood,
work their way into your growth spurts,
fit over skin and skeleton like saran wrap.
"You weep like a willow," Grandpa said
the first day you bled,
you tried to cover your body's crime
with the only crime scene tape you knew,
and you bled through.
You bled yourself through life, to life,
picked a rose off a bush, thorns intact,
determined that every bloom
is just an empty hemorrhage,
at best a second-degree burn
surrendered at the scar.
It is not October until something chases you home.
If it's not the discovery of an uncharted lunar phase,
then it could be your own.
Now you find yourself eclipsing it all--
the childhood wallpaper, the tire swing
that the wind forces into motion, though vacant.
You don't beg to keep anything that
steals your footsteps any longer.
Rather, you beg to keep it away, alone,
in its cocoon or in its tomb.