Mikayo and the Gulf War

  • to Mikayo, an emperor among cats
  • I went to bed early
  • the night we attacked Iraq,
  • was awake an hour later
  • as if someone had tapped
  • my shoulder, said, It’s war.
  • I’d had a war before
  • when I was very young.
  • A siren hung
  • outside my nursery window
  • with its blackout curtains,
  • rumors of German submarines
  • caught in steel nets
  • guarding East Coast harbors.
  • I don’t want to be alone, I thought. Mikayo,
  • I mentally called. Mikayo!
  • I went to the front door.
  • At full gallop he came bounding in
  • running so fast he would have smashed
  • his head on wood
  • if I hadn’t opened the door
  • just at that moment.
  • Companion, I have called no human
  • this way: saying your name in my mind,
  • and you came, you came.

Linda Brown (1941–2006) was a San Diego poet, poetry teacher, and librarian who for many years was a central and well-loved figure in the Southern California poetry community. She was born on December 14, 1941, in Newport, Rhode Island, and lived with her family on Whidbey Island, Washington, and then in Denver, Colorado, before the family moved to San Diego when she was 15. She taught poetry for many years at UCSD and at MiraCosta College. And she was a librarian for almost three decades. She began her political activism with the Vietnam War and was a passionate activist and feminist throughout her life. Her first poetry collection, Canta Una Mujer, was published in 1971 by Athena Press, and Journey with Beast, from which this poem is drawn, was published by La Jolla Poets Press in 2004.

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