Strips of flesh, like first-place ribbons
are what I see as I hold
the cat o'nine tails.
The Romans loved this simple tool,
used it to cleanse themselves
of troublesome people.
Unlike the Roman tool, there are no
bits of metal or bone
embedded like jagged ticks
in the leather studs at the end of each tail.
The straps wave back and forth
like leathery reeds in a soft wind.
She hangs before me, suspended by her
wrists, her purple-painted toes barely
brushing the floor.
Supple, pink-white flesh, a cultivated garden
of nerve bundles, like individual flower beds
awaiting a dose of fertilizer to grow.
But as I bring the cat down
and she squeals
like a child on a sugar rush
all I can picture
are strips of flesh.
It is the moment people like me fear,
disconnecting from the scene
like a phone left off the hook.