Young man with cat

I do not know his name Though I pass his house each evening, walking. He is number six On some young team in scarlet uniform And he pounds the ball in front of his house And tosses it through the hoop, ritually, Observing the masculine rites of this place, The rites of cold performance. But last evening I saw him - Number six in uniform - In the shadows of his door Holding his gray cat, Leaning his young man's cheek against its fur And saying soft things.

I startled him as I passed, Wounded him with recognition of softness. How quickly he laid aside the cat And turned his back against me As if I knew a secret weakness.

I know he can't have women in the neighborhood Seeing him unguarded With so much self to build, protect.

But I hope someday Within the citadel of manhood He will make a place Where he can hold a cat, Lean his rough cheek into its fur, And say the soft things inside himself.

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