It’s Not Just the Cat

Jessica Barksdale

You find yourself lost in a city block, the same streets

where you ate hamburgers with your teenaged boys,

the greasy taste still on your tongue,

their boy teases, their young laughter in your ear.

And then you are idling at a stoplight in another city, in another block,

and you are pushing a second-hand stroller

up toward the grocery store to buy the food

you can barely afford.

Then you are speeding

in your 1972 Volkswagen squareback, the window open,

you laughing against the rush of air,

your friend speeding alongside

you in her Datsun, both on your way to the college

you will later flunk out of but now teach at,

the same road you drive on now,

window closed.

Here you are again, an unhappy,

married woman nearing middle age,

staring up at the Eiffel tower, not wondering how it was constructed,

but how you will leave your marriage.

The circles push you out and away,

pull you back,

you on a bench on the first platform,

Paris spread out like a picnic blanket,

a new husband beside you.


Jessica Barksdale is the author of twelve novels, including Her Daughter’s Eyes¬†and The Instant When Everything Is Perfect. Her stories, poems, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Mason’s Road, The Coachella Review, So to Speak, and Salt Hill Journal. She is a professor of English at Diablo Valley College and teaches online novel writing for UCLA Extension.