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Monday, January 23, 2006


by Jan Austin Smith

a cloud of flies announces the presence of the Dead Cat.
it lies on the side of the road, amidst tall cluttered weeds and debris—
jagged wooden boards with rusty nails sticking out of them,
by Hurricane Winds
from nearby houses lying in ruin,
squished cigarette butts that look like skinny old men with gnarled spines
slouching under the weight of many years,
bloated bags of garbage left curbside because the trucks don’t come here anymore,
crushed empty budweiser cans,
shards of glass,
the Cat is a Black Cat. its wispy black fur clings wetly to its rotting skin.
it is sucked down onto the pavement, as if it fell out of the sky from a great distance,
and any more would’ve left it splattered open.
its ribs nearly stab out of its belly.
the flies come to rest once more on the Cat. they bite off minute pieces
of its decaying flesh,
or lay their maggot eggs inside of it to bring
filthy, disgusting
out of this horrible
in letters that begin at its neck and end just short of its tail,
someone has crudely, obscenely spray-painted GAME OVER in
on its Black fur.
the Black cat has been neglected.
a piece of trash in the tourist-laden French Quarter would receive more
immediate attention,
a speck of dirt doubly so in the rich Garden District.
but here, in the poor Black ninth ward, nothing.
the wealthy and commercial areas of the city
are as beautiful as they were the day before Destruction came,
while in the poor areas, It still resides.
you do the math.
nobody has come to claim this cat, because its owners are in
atlanta or
houston or
one of a hundred other alien cities that might as well be on alien planets for their
Distance from Home.
nobody has come to claim this cat because almost nobody has come to claim this part
of the city.
nobody has come to claim this part of the city, their Homes, because the
necessary supplies
aren’t being made a Necessity.
if a certain kind of Bomb were needed to drop on iraq,
rest assured it would be there by tomorrow.
but here we are, four months after the Chaos descended,
and an eighty-two year old woman is trying to scrub the inch-thick green
Mold from the walls of her
Home Sweet Home
with water,
holding a tattered White handkerchief over her mouth because no respirators or masks
were delivered to the distribution center today.
four months after the Chaos descended,
and down the street a middle-aged white man from
two-thousand miles away is helping an old
Black woman dig through the rubble of her
Home Sweet Home,
trying to salvage a few family pictures, and maybe
if she’s lucky
a cup or two.
and next door,
four months after the Chaos descended,
a group of college kids from across the country on their christmas break
are chucking furniture, books, silverware, photograph albums, lives,
ruined from water and filth and injustice and
Mold and
Mold and
out onto the sidewalk.
all of this because the Government has more important things to be doing.
and no one comes to claim this Cat,
and so the Dead Cat remains.

Jan Austin Smith lives in Southern California and attends the University of California at Irvine. He recently spent a week in New Orleans aiding in relief efforts and taking it all in.