Four Poems
by Natalie Eilbert

IMAGINARY CATS

The truth of the matter was I could never return
to the whiskers quilled and dull. There were tufts

everywhere. I’d spent too many years hoveled in
trees, too many dense years inside a parable for one

type of loneliness. Here is how to enamor yourself
to no one: erect a small army of air, papier-mache

its invisible structure over an invisible man. He will
resist the clarity of being known. What this means

is victory. Next the cats will come from the trunks
and they will look strange, jailed fur and alien eyes

more a sound than a color, sound like a fruit peeled
behind glass, a sound that can stare. Allow them

onto your branch and let them speak. A new man
will have picked up your scent, is trothed to it now.

Your oneness has made you a princess. You must
change. A new army approaches. Billboards grow

in bundles like mint. Pavement cracks and follies.
Someone is waiting. No: I’ve set fire to all the trees.





THE EPICURE

My worries were a white paste I made efforts to cook down.
The process was hard since it required fresh herbs,
an ability to balance charm and self-effacement
in place of actual discovery. To be frank I used
rat meat, didn’t wash the fur. It tasted bubonic. I added
salt from a blind horse’s nine tears, precisely nine.
It tasted like my mother standing over a stew with her hate,
it tasted like the open can she was close to crushing.
I pressed two fingers to my breasts searching for a
hidden history, a more exact poison, but nothing.
I fed rat tail through each earlobe, didn’t want scraps.
My prettiness hedged on this steaming pot so I dropped in
clumps of eyelashes. I whispered my embolisms onto
a bay leaf. I tied myself to the stovetop and left the room.





INHERITING THE PALEOLITHIC ART ANTHOLOGY

To return to the home I found so many treasures there.
Piece of charred gutter, ash-soaked curtains, a cat jaw

jutted from the dirt. A sunset pink as exposed fiberglass,
how still I became over those favors. A mattress blackened

where my girl-body once lay. When the fire took everything
I mean it was a confession, my house collapsed,

my animals dead. You were discarded, out of reach,
a footnote highlighted in my grandfather’s great book.

Only then did you not exist. Only then did my girlhood
shape itself in a trailer. And for a nanosecond only I knew sorry.

If, years later, I took men through my bay window,
there was still a hill out back made of all of me smoked.





REMARKABLE WINTER

One drink after the next, I dreamed Prague my city, gave it
steel and shiny black asphalt, immaculate women, men

to curse themselves once in the night—such clean vision.
The real occurred as a shapeless army, the procession of drunks

with their small claims to life a stein of pilsner, goulash, the
watery smiles falling from their mouths after dekujeme.

An expat leaned close to my ear, said “We let the world take us
again and again”: nazism, communism, capitalism: all these bodies

dragged heaven-fat across the Charles bridge isn’t it gorgeous.
I’m told the Czech have no word for city. I’m told the men are thick

with songbirds pretty and tucked in their guts. My chest stuffed
with boar meat I am sick and charging, false prophet

of my own tongue. When a street crone waved a toy at me
and begged for money, then followed me cursing, spitting at my feet,

shielding the toy from my sight, I imagined my love a marionette
his torqued face forecasting my death. The expat leaned in again.

“We cannot care what is possibly done to us. Look how I speak
English to you.” I was glad for the sun so early fled from this world,

the night able to statue me to this clock-tower memory where
I hang all my men. I was glad for the drink in my hand. It was mine.





Natalie Eilbert’s work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Colorado Review, Copper Nickel, Bat City Review, Spinning Jenny, Barn Owl Review, the Rumpus, DIAGRAM, La Petite Zine, and elsewhere. She is a founding editor of The Atlas Review (open for submissions until November 15th).