John F. Buckley & Martin Ott — Nine Tales of Catwoman


Knowing how East End streets leaked
the cream of stories, Irena Dubrovna
bought eight plastic bottles with nipples
online, one per teat on Graymalkin III,
one per day of a Beatles’ week loving
Helena. As they dry again in the drainer,
she works the breast pump and considers
Mother Goose, absent parents, well-fed
changelings that never stop laughing.


Daughter forgotten, Pauline Lancaster
spends her nights in a London disco,
playing both angel and devil, keeping
clear of Gotham and servicing royalty
as a dominatrix in a dungeon where
masks are mandatory. She cracked
her whip to climb towers for diamonds
and to flay the backs of feral princes.
She never saw the duke’s knife blade.


Margarita De Soto went undercover
as a Catholic nun to keep ex-Robin
Dick Grayson from proposing, to stop
herself from her own need to love
what she hated. Her sister was a nun
before she lost touch and her brother
the King of Cats tracked her to pose
as a priest. She dodged his advances
for sex, but not the poisoned Eucharist.


Clumsy Kat Harlow could never keep
from knocking her noggin on the curve
of the overhead compartments as she
served cocktails and bags of peanuts
to passengers on Schroedinger Airlines.
One crash in a field, one life ostensibly
spared, one last crack to the frontal lobe
leaving her reeling, wondering whether
she was now in or out of society’s box.


Stalking catwalks of Paris, Milan and
Metropolis, toying with gender: slender
line of glitter pasted like stubble along
a fine jawbone, muscles taut, motions
slinky in gowns and broad-shouldered
tuxedoes. Treacherous? Hardly. They
never made a promise to break. One
fan confuses a half-smile for consent,
almost loses an eye to a sculptured nail.


Niaga orehitna na fo sreksihw demoorg,
yltfos dessih, yldloc derats Namowtac.
Lleps a rof ytivarg ot gniwob, wodniw eht
hguorht welf naicigam eht os. Thgit os si
gag eht nehw ton yllaicepse, sessertsim ro
sretsam yebo t’nod, sgod ekilnu, stac tub.
“Doog eb, Namowtac!” niaga dnammoc
ot deirt Annataz. “Htcib” a fo daetsni
enilef elamef gnigar a llac uoy od tahw?


She named herself, for a time, after cats:
Kitinka, Catrina, Felinity. She became wild
in the way of strays, and passed from home
to throne, from alley to penthouse, petted
and stroked. Her claws came out often.
She climbed walls even in her dreams,
each place a prison to get captured in,
then break free. One escape went bad,
they always do when people hoard people.


No one thought to look for her under the sea,
secreted among the crew of the STAR Labs
Megabathysphere, quiet, bottle-blonde
field researcher Chloe Leo, keeping tucked
in water-quality reports or baggy SCUBA
dry suits, tagging catfish with trackers or
rifling through lockers, just for practice,
just until the first mate missed her heirloom
earrings: an alarm, a hunt, a casting adrift.


If a woman denies that she is a villain,
the world will not believe her. She hides
in plain sight, with children and husbands,
with many names and roles in this last life.
She had her own infinite crisis of stealth,
hiding along rooftops, shadowing beasts.
Her cat in old age is nameless like herself.
She slips out to track footsteps not taken,
pilfering herself, falling backwards in love.