At the end of the story,
When the plague has arrived,
The performance can begin.

Displacing flimsy heaven
And its contraptions, now
Come practical urgencies:

Getting the price of salvation,
Divined from the guts of birds
Or from cruciform insects. Like

The savior Oedipus, kittens
Are histrionic: defiant swagger
Then ritual flight in terror.

“The soul of the cat is the form
Of its body.” In Christendom,
Civic mourners were hired

To walk the stricken city ways
Chanting: “I am sick, I must
Die — Lord have mercy on us.

More Poems by Robert Pinsky