“The Big Cats” is an ongoing poetry cycle written and read by Val Vinokur, and published weekly at Public Seminar. For more, read Part IPart IIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VIIPart VIII, and Part IX.



Good fences make good neighbors,
and good proverbs do no favors.
In this omnivorous lactose intolerant age,
the solid frozen-ground-swell melts
into the humid air, into a rainbow slick
of fuel and water, microplastic and sargassi,
and everywhere there is something
that does so love a wall.

Build the Wall! the Big Cats would taunt us,
as Alibaba flies carpets and smart watches
over the Great Wall of China, and trucks
bring strawberries and fentanyl from the south,
while spouses put up screens between each other
and their meddling cartoon kids as the forty days
turn into forty months.

Behind the thick blue smudge there is a wall
of feds in camouflage. Against them is a wall
of moms
and then a wall of dads with leaf-blowers.
I am a wall and my breasts are like towers.
I sing a song of songs about a wall of walls
that might just maybe keep the soul intact,
under a bushel hid.

Val Vinokur teaches literature and translation at The New School and is the founding editor of Poets & Traitors Press.

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