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   Sunflowers like skinny men with rubberneck looks.
Spidery cloud keeping quite still. A lean, willful son:
   I care for the farm cats with straw and warm milk.
I’m about to see cruelty is the will’s idiom
            if conscience isn’t,
               I’m home after sore hours
            at school, a bouquet of slurs and scowls

   wilting in my hand, and here’s the stray, a blue cat
mewling, sticking to me, always sticking
   like a burr on my sweatpants, and I spin on it,
hiss, but it won’t leave off. And when the thing
            was done—by my hand, hell—
               a sick-sweet smell
            of what I can’t tell.



Jesse Nathan was raised in Northern California and rural Kansas. His poems have appeared in the Paris Review, New York Review of Books, and The Believer. His first book of poems, Eggtooth, is being published this fall by Unbound.




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